I started collecting my mom’s sayings and thoughts about eight or nine years ago as simply a way to capture her genius – that is, her funny perspectives and wisdom, seemingly lost in a world that is increasingly dismissing family values. The memoir I am publishing is certainly about her life lessons, but it also brings to the process of aging and how we, as a nation, despite our many advances, don’t seem to have that process figured out yet. Let’s face it, there’s no perfect formula for how we can best to take care of our elders, and candidly, I don’t profess to have the answer.
What I do know is that moms and dads took care of us when we were babies, when we threw up all night with a virus, soothed us on our first day of middle school during our awkward years, and assured and supported us when we had our own babies. They have helped shape who we are. But as our moms and dads age, there are a whole host of physical, emotional, and most notably, financial strains that make keeping our parents happy and safe -well- pretty unsustainable.
Somehow, it doesn’t seem right that we can’t get this to a perfect formula to allow people to be comfortable and content to look back on their lives with pleasure and feel secure, safe, well-served and valued as they succumb to the brutal physical deterioration that accompanies Father Time. As my mother-in-law used to say, “Getting old is like being a horse put out to pasture. You can no longer work and be productive, so people just put you to the side.”
It’s heartbreaking to watch our parents become betrayed by their physical bodies, lose their friends, say goodbye to their independence, and in my case with my mom, have their memories start to fade. My brother, sister-in law, and I are trying to honor the wishes of my mom; that is, let her stay in her house for as long as possible. But, make no mistake, it takes a village to do and sometimes, it is an hour-by-hour process.
Thank goodness, we are blessed to have amazing caregivers who help us. In fact, I am truly grateful for some of them who have become members of our “take care of mom” community. They are unique, gifted, and compassionate and deserve a special place in heaven.
As I share my stories with Bess, please note that I do it with a lighthearted persona to show you her unique spirit and wisdom. That is still there and shines through, even during the worst days of memory loss. Even when she can’t retrieve the right words, we laugh together, and we all make the best of it. But on a more sobering note, I do think the nation could do a better job of figuring out how to show them “the love” during their senior years with more formalized programs and financial support. So, here’s to you and to all those who are doing their best to keep mom and dad safe, secure. Keep trying to keep them from being sent out to pasture, or at least don’t make them feel as if they are.