Tag Archives: Aging at home

Dear Momma

Photo of Mom courtesy of Marv Snider,1962

Photo of Mom courtesy of Marv Snider,1962

I write letters to my dead mother. Although much time has passed since her passage to the ethereal spirit world, she is within me, floating in the space of memory, forever embedded in past stories, the root of present stories.

As I age, she is more and more present— a guide, an invisible wise woman on the road ahead. As a child, perhaps, 8 or 9 years old, she had the wisdom to encourage my involvement in The Camp Fire Girls Organization. I left my safe neighborhood, took hikes in Baxter Woods, spent summers at Camp Hitinowa deep in the Maine woods, where female counselors taught me the importance of noticing a landscape, where new trees and fauna shaped or hindered our walking paths.

Mom did not hike nor go to the woods. A city person, she wrapped her identity around my father, her role as wife and mother, especially after both her parents died when I was two and a half.  I never knew any of my grandparents, never saw them age. My maternal grandmother died in her fifties; my Mom died at ninety-three. I had the privilege of walking alongside her as she encountered the challenges of a failing heart.

She was open-minded and curious, a woman who shared her joys and worries. She trusted me; we problem solved together, especially during her latter years when her strength began to wane and it was necessary to consider options to assure her wish to live out her life as independently as possible.

I am cut from the same cloth— independent to a fault. I am grateful for the lessons learned—to know when and how to share vulnerability, to ask for help, to recognize and manage my own limits.

Mom lived on her own in a ranch style home up to the day of her death. Because of limited sight and unpredictable health events, she faced the dilemma of relocating to an assisted living community or inviting a caretaker into her home. With my assurance that we could place an ad in the Portland Press Herald and screen candidates for her final approval, she chose to limit her privacy in favor of maintaining her lifestyle.

During the last few years of her life, she had two caretakers. With their help, Mom continued to make her special spaghetti sauce and much loved molasses raisin cookies. Months after her death, I savored the small cache of sauce in the container labeled in her graceful handwriting.

No wonder, I occasionally sit down and write a “Dear Momma” letter, grateful for the steadfast memory of her voice, which comes forth as I write. She never witnessed my transition from writing poetry to writing real life stories.

I’m grateful she read several of my early poems— many of which were about her. In response to the poems, she said, “Does it make you happy?” If she were to ask the same question about this post, I would say, “not so much happy as pleased.”

For prior post referencing Camp Hitinowa, see The Return— http://fayewriter.com/2016/02/29/

 

 

Mom Taught Me Gratitude

Mom & Me, Circa 1992

Mom & Me, Circa 1992

My gratitude diaries, like the shelves of my food pantry, provide staples for nourishment. By putting pen to paper, I note the ingredients—the essentials of the event or situation, which are stirred into a reflective mix and stored by date for future use.

On March 14th last year, I wrote: Is there more to writing about gratitude than the simple act of writing? Each entry marks a point in time— to be recognized, acknowledged and pondered. It is a way to separate the wheat from the chafe, which, in this speed-word driven culture is essential to my slowing down, reflecting and deliberating.

A full year later, my thoughts are the same, only more so. With the promise of an upcoming April birthday, I am aware of time passing. My mother died at 93; and I have every hope of reaching her mark or beyond. She and dad were close-knit, a traditional couple. Dad was the provider and Mom’s life was filled with tending to the care of her family and home. A widow for eleven years after Dad’s passing, she spoke with me often about loneliness.

I suggested she start a diary to put down and express what she was feeling. Mom found comfort in writing— at first, daily, then once a week and then intermittently for three years. From 1986 to 1989, she wrote in pen in graceful delicate script on lined composition paper. She numbered each page at the top and dated each entry.

Though lonely, she often wrote about her sense of gratitude. She struggled with physical issues—high blood pressure and heart disease—but along with concerns for her health, her wish for independence, her grandchildren’s choices, she wrote about being grateful, especially for the presence of her children, her appreciation of their care and concern.

I cherished the candor of her words. As she aged, she became more outspoken about her needs and wishes. As her eldest daughter, I felt inspired to help her live out her life in the way she desired. Her greatest wish was to age at home and most of all, to be of little worry to her children. At the age of 89, she wrote:

One more week in August, and summer will be over. It was a good one for me. I was able to do some things, which I was not capable of for some time and I am very grateful. I just hope and pray it should continue, as it is a good feeling to be able to act on one’s own.

After several worrisome falls, Mom agreed to a live-in companion. My parents, especially my dad, were frugal. Mom was grateful for his ability to earn and to save.

In her mind, during the years of her widowhood, he continued to provide for her. She expressed gratitude openly, both verbally and in her writing. In her final days, she got her wish; she lived out her life and ultimately died, with the help of Hospice, in her own home.