on growing old(er) gracefully
Whenever I tease my mom about getting old, she says, “I’m not old, I’m older.” And she’s right, at 67 she is relatively young.
(And still, I couldn’t resist the urge to make this photo look like a daguerreotype…)
But she’s even younger at heart. And she has managed to accomplish the main thing that I hope to achieve as I get old(er):
She’s not bitter. At all. About anything.
I think that is one of the hardest things to do as we navigate our way through this life. It is so easy to fall into the bitter trap, to be angry, or cynical, or unforgiving. Life can be hard, and sometimes it kicks our ass. But my mom has managed to remain, well, what’s the opposite of bitter? Sweet?
And it isn’t easy for her to be that way. She has fibromyalgia, and so she is very often living in pain. But she never stops thinking of other people, ever. Even now, when she is so sick she can barely get out of bed, she still says at the end of our conversation, “Call us if you need anything.”
This past week, she had emergency gall bladder surgery, and then ended up back in the hospital with pneumonia. And through it all, even as we were sitting in the emergency room and she was having trouble catching her breath, she was still joking, making conversation, showing interest in other people. She asked every single person–nurse, tech, student, cleaner–how they were doing, their name, their children’s names, their children’s ages.
And she’ll remember what they say. Days later, she’ll say, “Jennifer said such and such…” and I’ll say, “Who’s Jennifer?” And she’ll say, “Jennifer, the nurse, the one with the two little boys, one of them has a bad cold, and the other one just started playing the piano.” As if we have both known them all forever.
Because she loves people. She cares about them, even the ones she barely knows. She, and my father, are always there to help. Always doing things for other people. Always giving. Selfless. They are each, in their own way, my hero.
When I grow old(er) I think
I want to be just like her.