This is my mom. She is 97 years old and is sporting a hair cut I gave her about 5 days before. Yes, I am a real,live certified YouTube cosmetologist. I think she looks pretty cute. She will be 98 on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been lucky to have her so long.
Her brother, my Uncle Henry, lived a long time, too. He was 94 when he passed away in July of 2018. For a number of years, my mom and her brother both lived at AHEPA senior apartments. My mom was on the 2nd floor, and Uncle Henry was on the 3rd.
For years, Dan and I would pick up my mom and my uncle most every Saturday night. We’d go out to eat. We had a routine: Bob Evans, Dennys, O’Charlies, Bandana’s, and then we’d start all over again. We nearly always had a coupon and took turns paying the bill. The waitresses got to know us, and some even remembered our soft drink orders. At Bob Evans, we were known as the “light ice” group. Our favorite waitress at Denny’s allowed my uncle to substitute corn for the broccoli without an up charge. Heaven forbid, we’d have an up charge!
Afterwards, we’d go back to AHEPA, and my mom, Dan and I would play games, Scrabble and Farkel, in the community room. We’d chat with the residents who happened by, and my uncle would always come down to visit once more before we headed for home.
In August of 2016, my mom could no longer live in the AHEPA Senior Apartments. She moved about 10 minutes away to an assisted living facility. Still, we continued our exciting Saturday nights. We just had an extra detour of picking up and dropping off my uncle. Fortunately, all our favorite restaurants were located within a fairly small circle of travel near their homes. Afterwards, we’d go back to my mom’s apartment and, you guessed it, play Scrabble and Farkel.
After my uncle passed away, we continued to take my mom out to eat. And we continued to play games afterwards. We’d usually play two or three games of Scrabble and end our night with a rousing game of Farkel. But as time went on, it became harder to take her out. We still did, just less frequently. She also became forgetful, and sometimes she took a really long time to play her turn in Scrabble. But we still played. I always felts happy that we had her exercising her brain with both words and numbers.
Sometimes, I’d visit her without Dan. I’d bring some painting project or puzzles. First 300 pieces, then 100 and then 24 piece puzzles. I remember that 300 piece puzzle. I think we started it about 2 pm and finished about 11 pm. She didn’t want to give up. My mom always cheerfully participated and smiled big when I took her picture to show off our latest project.
Then Covid hit, and we couldn’t visit for 4 months.
We and others kept in touch with my mom using the Echo device. Sometimes, I couldn’t really think of much to talk about, so I started asking her math problems. She liked that as she used to do the bookkeepping for my parents’ business. I also started asking her trivia, like history, questions for which I thought she would know the answers. Eventually, though, this ran its course, but it was good for a while.
When we finally could visit again, she had lost 40 pounds. I know because I took her to the doctor. There was no medical underlying reason, just being without her family. Covid had stayed away from her, but she still suffered. I don’t want to say this, but we also saw a decline in her cognitive abilities. How much was due to the isolation from her family and how much was due to her age, we’ll never know.
Since we’ve been able to visit, we’ve played Farkel only once. A few times, on pretty days, I took her outside for a short walk and to sit on her small patio. During my last visit, as it’s been for the last several visits, she wants just to stay in her recliner. Even though it was a gorgeous day outside, she didn’t want to go the few steps out her door to the patio. She didn’t want to do crafts. She just wanted to sit in her recliner and watch TV. She said, “I am very comfortable right here.”
I will see her sparkle, just a bit, when she sees a picture of her 2 year old great grandson, Eli. She also peps up for the sweets, especially chocolate. But otherwise, the seasons have changed.
I didn’t write this post to sadden you; although, it is sad. I write it to encourage you to treasure those you love. To make those shared memories while you can, even if you have to do it by thinking outside of the box. And I write another thought, too. While my mom is quiet now, she has always been cheerful and grateful. She doesn’t complain. Just like her mother, my grandma, was. And just like my Uncle Henry was, too. So, it’s easy to visit her. In fact, it’s a pleasure and my honor. Bottom line, don’t be a curmudgeon when you get old. Or for that matter, anytime. Or else, I may not visit you.
After my recent visit, when all I could do was put lotion on her arms, rub her back, bring her some chocolate, and watch some Carole Lombard movies on Ted Turner’s channel, I woke that night about 4 am. I lay there for about an hour, thinking of my mom, tears spilling out and running down my cheeks. Eventually, I fell back to sleep. But in the morning, I got up, put on my big girl pants, and put my chin up with determination and an upward focus to try and keep. If all I can do, is sit by my mom, and see that she is safe and comfortable and loved, then that’s what I’m gonna do, as best as I can. I am her daughter, after all.
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.Ralph Waldo Emerson