Thoughts on a 95-year-old woman
My friend and her siblings have tried for years to get their mom to move from Myrtle Beach to Ohio where she would be surrounded by all six of her kids. Of course, the mom wouldn’t hear of that. But then disaster struck. The mom – at age 95 – fell and broke her hip. In a flurry of activity over a few weeks, she was in and out of the hospital, and after a final night in her house, she relocated to Ohio.
I’m thrilled for her! She will be well cared for and loved! But I wonder, did she want to go to the beach one more time before heading inland? And with that thought in mind, I have been driving around Cincinnati imagining what it would be like if I had to make an abrupt goodbye.
My mind goes first to the foods I’d miss:
Cincinnati style chili pops immediately into mind. So strong is its pull that I head directly to the restaurant’s drive through to order my favorite dish. In case of a hasty farewell, I am now sated! But what would I do in the weeks to come?
There are places I’ll remember:
Leaving the chili parlor, I drive down the main thoroughfare of town – Montgomery Road – and memories abound. The green Mexican restaurant where Liz, Paul, Irv, and I regularly got tipsy on margaritas. The hospital of happy and sad – its emergency room the place I took my dad so many times at the end of his life, its maternity ward the place I met several grandchildren at the beginning of theirs. The pediatrician’s office where Dr. Johnson was my own personal Dr. Spock helping to coach me through motherhood. Montgomery Park where Fourth of July celebrations played out when the kids were young. The elementary school my kids attended – and now some of the grandkids attend. Even the entrance to Ronald Reagan Highway holds memories. This is where I had to pull over when a boy in the carpool would not stop spitting at the other kids.
It is crazy that this three-mile stretch of road alone could provide enough material for an episode of This Is Your Life. And more insane, even my bad memories become painfully poignant. My throat burns as I imagine what it would be like to leave Cincinnati behind.
And then of course, there are people I will miss:
The book club friends, the temple friends, the quilting friends, the neighbors, and those other friends who defy categorization, they all own a piece of my heart. I remember moving from Los Angeles to Cincinnati in the 1980’s. There were three different going away parties for our family. It astounded me that I had so many friends. It saddened me not to realize how much we all liked each other until it was too late, and I was leaving. Have I done that again with my life in Cincinnati, or am I up to date in appreciating all these wonderful people?
But all of this takes a back seat to missing my house:
The place where good food, boatloads of memories, and scads of people have congregated. I have a favorite art print hanging in my living room. It is called “Auction Day” by Charles Peterson. It shows an old house with a big porch. The top half of the painting is very clear, but then it is blurry down below. When you approach it, you see there is another lighter painting superimposed on the old homestead. It shows a car from the 1940s and people in old fashioned clothing milling about and carrying old fashion things. It’s as if the house itself has memories. The house’s nostalgia is so contagious, I feel it too.
How does one leave all that behind?
Charlie Brown said, “Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.”
With a lump fully lodged in my throat, my initial ebullience for my friend’s mom is tempered.
I remember when my grandmother was in her mid-90s. My mom was trying to move her to an assisted living facility against Bubbie’s will. The social worker at the time explained that both women had terrific goals, but that they were mutually exclusive. Bubbie wanted her independence in every way, shape, and form, while Mom wanted her to be safe. I think especially when we’re talking about a 95-year-old woman such as my Bubbie or my friend’s mother, safety has to trump all the rest even though it will definitely cause a massive amount of pain in the throat.
Somebody remind me of that when I’m in my mid-90s, will ya? And remind my kids of something too. They will need to serve up a large dose of compassion as they help their beloved nonagenarian adjust to these many losses. With luck, I will. Fingers crossed for my friend’s mom too.
PS: If you need comic relief after such a serious story, please know that the carpool I mentioned above was on its way to Hebrew School and that the kid who couldn’t stop spitting ultimately became a rabbi.
Here’s my M.O.: I tell the stories of my life hoping others can find life lessons in them. AND I function as a cheerleader with the core message: Life can be difficult but you can handle it. Like these topics? Then try my blog and/or my new book, Love, Loss, and Moving On. And tell a friend!