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If You Live Long Enough: A Mother Looks At Life

Updated on November 9, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She writes about taking care of aging parents.

Mom, savoring a card on her 83rd birthday
Mom, savoring a card on her 83rd birthday

If we live long enough, it happens. It arrives as softly as a whisper and washes over us as gently as a Spring rain. But, it is harsh and it is sometimes painful. It is the arrival of old age and it is inevitable, if you live long enough.


If we live long enough, all that life has taught us comes back like waves in the ocean, gently reminding us that through riches or poverty, health or sickness, joy or heartbreak, love is what sustains us. Love - is all that matters.

A Mother Reflects

I see the face staring back from the mirror, telling me that I have more days behind me than in front of me. The faces of my children tell me that they too know that our days of making memories are growing short. It makes me sad but what can I do? This is my reality and I cannot change it. My children seem surprised at my acceptance. They are too young still to understand that acceptance comes with age too.

Life here in the facility is good. The children made the right decision. I am no longer isolated and afraid of storms. The worries that once kept me awake at night are over. Someone else does the laundry now and there is another kind soul who manages all those pills. That was so hard for me. Thanks to my children, I am comfortable, safe, and, I have so many new friends that I can’t remember most of their names. It’s okay though because they can’t remember mine either.

"Doing the right thing for someone else was like a tonic for me; it was like some magic ointment that made a wound disappear." - Susie Bright


Sometimes, at the end of the day, I think about the children and how hard it must have been for them to find just the right place for us. But they did. I also know how hard it must have been for them to tell us they were moving us from the home we built over 50 years ago. They didn’t need to tell me how hard it was. I saw it in their eyes. They have learned their lessons well. I tried to teach them that sometimes doing the right thing was also the hardest thing. I am so proud of them.

My children visit often and the time we spend together now is so much happier than before the move. There are no more lists of things that need to be done while they are visiting and no more lists of things to bring next time. Surely that must be a relief to them. It’s been almost four months now and not once have I had to call them away from their job to help me handle their father. There are others here who know exactly what to do when the Alzheimer’s disease acts ugly and they do it with ease and compassion. They shower us with attention and affection and some even call me Grandma. I feel so blessed.

Living Again

This new place keeps me so busy that the days just fly by. Back home I read two or three books a week. Here, I can hardly finish a chapter in a week. There is so much to do and the activity is making me stronger. I walk so much better than I did at home and the therapist worked with me for two weeks and now I can turn my head again and the pain is gone. They have taken us on rides in the country, out to eat, and to a baseball game. The van driver grew up with my children so he takes really good care of us when we go out. It’s so nice to be able to tell my children about our outings and I realize now that until we moved, I had very little to talk about. My days were all the same – before the move.

It's Not Perfect But Life Is Good

Not a day goes by that I don’t realize how much the children did for us to make this our new home. Our room is small but it’s so warm and feels like home. The staff tells me our room is beautiful and that they love spending time in it. We sleep so good in the new beds the children bought and the walls are adorned with all the things I’ve loved about our life as a family. I am surrounded by memories that remind me of the love that is the foundation of our family. The children even bought us a small refrigerator so that we could still enjoy our nightly ritual of a bowl of ice-cream. Friends come to visit and also bring us treats. The food here is okay but it’s not like home. It is best described as “institutional” and although we get a balanced diet, I cannot say it is delicious. I do so miss tasting food that is cooked with love in old pots that have been seasoned well over decades of use. The children recognize this and have promised that once our estate is settled, they will make sure that we get more home cooked meals.

Hidden Treasures

There is a porch here, with rocking chairs and I love to take my coffee there in the morning and watch as the sun warms the day. It is a good place to think, to reflect. I often find myself thinking about the hardship I placed on my children by keeping every little trinket. We lived on a modest income and it never occurred to me how much had accumulated over the years. We worked hard to have those things and I just never could bring myself to throw them away. The children laughed when they found the boxes that contained every card they had ever given us. There were hundreds of them, I’m sure and they were my treasures. The children didn’t think it was as funny when they found my note asking them to look at those cards before they threw them away. Was I asking too much? I just wanted them to know how much those cards, made by their hands when they were oh so young and innocent, meant to me.

I can only imagine how surprised the children were when they discovered the hidden love notes that their father and I had written to each other over the years. I'm sure they never doubted our love but it never occurred to me to show them the letters. In fact, I thought I had hidden them well. Perhaps I secretly wanted them to be found one day. Now that they have been discovered, I know my children will never doubt that they were born of love, real and lasting love.

Keepers


I kept every drawing, even the fingeroainted ones with unrecognizable characters and all the Valentines sent to my children from their classmates. This was the stuff memories were made of and I couldn’t bear to throw them away. Those old pots and pans were special too. There was the one that was only used to fix bologna and cheese sandwiches, steamed to perfection with the cheese a melted, gooey mess. It hadn’t been used since the mid 60’s but I just never could bring myself to throw it away. I hear it sold for $5.00 at the estate sale and I hope it will bring smiles to the face of another child someday.


Yes, my children have had their hands full, getting rid of all that I had saved for the sake of remembering. What a good life I have had with a husband who truly loved me and children that have grown into such fine people. There is so much to be thankful for.

Love is all there is!

With more days behind me than ahead, I am learning, still learning, that what really matters in this life can’t be touched with the hands, seen with the eye, or tasted. Or can it? Love, that is all that really matters and on second thought, it may be the only thing that can be touched, seen, tasted, and felt. Love is the stuff memories are made of and it is the only thing that we can really take with us when we leave this world. On those days when I question life, wondering why we spend a lifetime accumulating things that we have to let go, I must remember that love is all there really is.

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Author's Note:

If you, or someone you love, is facing decisions on elder care, do your homework. Visit the facilities in your area. Talk to the residents and to their families. Talk to the staff. More importantly, trust your heart. You will know when you have found the right place and then, you will do the right thing. It will not be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But, there is life after thee life-changing decisions and it can be better than you ever dreamed.

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  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sallybea, thank you. This was very personal and I wasn't sure how it would be received.

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    Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

    lrc7815 - such a beautiful piece of writing. It really did catch my eye and I can so relate to this. Thanks for sharing.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Carol, I tried to write this piece by looking through my mother's eyes. I don't have children of my own so I had to "stand" in her shoes in order to understand how it must feel to be uprooted from your home and all the things you had cherished because of the memories attached. My Mom never complained or cried over the loss and I needed to understand her strength. I learned a lot from looking through her eyes. But yes, we are lucky to have a family that loves each other so much. Thank you for the visit.

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    carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

    I know you are life is different and life changes before our very eyes. However, you are blessed with loving children who have helpd and supported you..some of us don't.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Eric, your words have touched my heart. Yes, my Mom "lived" for her family. It was evident in every corner of our home. My brother and I often wonder what the world today would be if every child had come from a home like ours. We were taught to be moral, kind, thoughtful, responsible, etc. and, we were held accountable. That - is what lov is all about, isn't it?

    I appreciate your visit and lovely comment so very much. Thank you Eric.

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    Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Just beautiful. Both the story and how it was written. One thing is certain and that is that love begets love. Whenever I see such a scenario, I immediately think of how much love that mother must have shown her daughter. We talk about breaking the cycle in unhealthy family matters. But it is the circle of love that must never be broken.

    Thank you for such beauty.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Well, Ms CrisSp - I'd just bet that your daughtrs could write something like this, if they are even half the woman their mother is. Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

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    CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

    You just made me cry here...so touching and beautiful. I am officially an empty nester now. My youngest just went off to start a new life in the University and I wonder if any of my daughters would be able to write something as beautiful as this in the future. Not only this is very creative, it is wonderfully written and full of life (past, present and future).

    Love from the sky~

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Shauna. Yes, we do have a lot of love. We've had our rocky times too but that makes these days all the sweeter. As for writing from Mom's perspective - thank you. I've never felt that I had a niche but some of my favorite pieces of my own are those written from someone elses perspective. Maybe its just easier than sorting through my own feelings. lol

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    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, to write from your mother's point of view is wonderful and very creative. I'm so happy that she has found peace and is again enjoying life. You have a lot of love in your family and it shows.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    There you are, sweet Faith Reaper, always sharing that heart full of love. I think of you often and remember well those final days when you put your own life aside and did what was right and good for your own sweet mother. I know it has been a hard year without her but as I am so often reminded, she will ALWAYS be with you. I know that you feel her presence. Thank you for always being a force of love and support.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Grandmapearl - I have missed my HP friends so much and it is so good to hear from you. I know the agony your cousins experienced and applaud their courage to do what was best. I sincerely appreciate your sweet comment and hope you are doing well.

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    Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

    Yes, Dear Linda,

    Love is truly all that matters on this earth... you have brought tears in your sharing, very beautiful and heartfelt. I am taken back to this past Christmas when my mother left us at the age of 84.

    You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers, please know.

    Your mother is blessed to have you and all of her wonderful children.

    You are beautiful.

    Love, Theresa aka Faith Reaper

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    Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

    I loved this. It brought back all the memories of my aunt and her journey through Alzheimer's. My cousins struggled with the idea of taking them out of what had been their only home for 60 years, and moving my aunt and uncle into a facility. In the end they knew it had been the right decision, and a necessary one.

    Lovely and touching ;) Pearl

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Edskinfan, my one and only sibling and words cannot express how grateful I am that it is you. After reading your beautiful sentiment, I think maybe you might just be the better writer in the family too. You are an artist in so many ways but the thing you do best is hold our family together and help me find reason in a world that makes that pretty hard sometimes. I am so glad you felt I did this one well. It was important. I love you!

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    Edskinfan 4 years ago

    Did you ever take a vacation and then some time later, look at the pictures and realize for the first time what a journey it had been? Sometimes when you are in the middle of something, it is hard to see what's going on. That's how I felt when I read this post. You see, this is the life I have been living lately because this is my mother too. Linda did a wonderful job of capturing recent events through our mothers eyes and putting it in writing. It has been quite a journey and if this reflection is even close to to how our mother feels (and I believe it is) then it was worth every step. Nice job Linda!

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, my kindred - you need say nothing more. I feel ya and am returning your love.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Maria, this one has been brewing for several days in my think tank. It is a compilation of tings my Mom has said, conversations we've had, and yes, even some things that have been heart-felt but unstated. I tried to see through her eyes, what this journey has done and meant for her. I hope that it will be encouraging to others facing those hard decisions.

    Your heart is so tender and precious and although I wish that this had not brought the tears for you, I wouldn't change you if I could. I know in my heart that your Mom was just as precious as mine and I wish that I could have known her. I know how proud she was/is of you. That, I am sure of. Hugs.

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    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Beautiful and touched much too close to home. :) Sending hugs and love your way.

    Kindred

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    Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Oh Linda,

    Tears are pouring down my face at the power of your Mom's words. I can hear so much of my own Momma in her...she was almost 83 when she suddenly died.

    You and your siblings have given your parents the very best gifts of all...simplicity, peace of mind and the opportunity to truly have a decent quality of life as long as God wishes for that to happen. That peacefulness is so evident in her words...

    Thank you for sharing this informative, inspirational and hopeful message with us. Love, Maria