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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.


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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