Telltale truths are often best revealed when the distractions of life are boiled down to the simplest terms. This certainly rings especially true with the passing of time and the reality of our eventually limited mobility.
Because, regardless of age, once mobility becomes curtailed, the sphere of daily living becomes very condensed and simplified.
Living spaces become preciously recast into very compact, square feet areas. Within such inch by inch local travel, the priority of what supplies to keep at arm’s length becomes quickly sorted out by necessity (and most definitely not glamor).
Saltine crackers, salt shakers, ketchup packets, a box of tissues. Those mundane conveniences that naturally build up over time and collect in the swirling eddies of our life’s resistless current.
And over the years, when my Mom has been forced to transfer to a hospital room or a rehab facility, the first order of business has always been to make sure she has her family photos brought along, especially her great grand-kid photos.
This is always the first step in plotting a comeback. This is the vital bridge that exports a family vibe into the most sterile rooms.
And that has generally been my brother Andy’s department. A role which he has performed dutifully—nay admirably, for countless years and transitions for the health and well-being of our dear Mom. He is the one that pulls out the thumb tacks and transforms a previously dull and mandatory cork board square into a family community center.
More than any events calendar, super friendly staff, or the most inspirational view out the window; these framed family faces have done the most morale boosting by far in the overall rehabbing and successful return home of my Mom than any flowers or box of chocolates ever could.
And this has been every bit as true when she has been fortunate enough to be living back at home. Because with the majority of her waking hours spent in the TV room while sitting in her wheel chair or recliner, Mom operates in a very truncated universe of furniture and internal scenery.
This shortened living space serves as a great litmus test as to how well a life has been lived.
And I think it serves as a helpful scenario for all of us to consider—as we answer the question: How would our LIVING SPHERE look, (prior to those latter, retired, senior years) were we to be seriously in-firmed or disabled, which would necessitate us to be consigned to a small room for much of the time?
Would our table tops and book shelves be littered with beer cans and cigarette butts?
Would the warm glow of the HD TV screen be our lone comfort and support? (of course, Mom also takes quite a shine to the restorative effects of murder mysteries, Brit-wit and fox news).
Are most of the mementos about ourselves or others? Would we never look up from our hand-held device and demand constant access to an outlet to charge our I-phone?
Which brings up the way in which my Mom reflects on past and present family. She stays grounded in a network of family connections that always sustain her worst periods of sleeplessness and poor health. She honors all eras of loved ones, never becoming tethered to just one identity or shackled by any bitterness or resentments that might rob her of her joy.
In fact, the cross germination of family influences and remembrances can blur and time travel so effortlessly for her where grace and gratitude are concerned.
What a great anchor to stay attached with! Even in the worst disorientation panic attack spells brought on by side effects from medicine or surgery—displaying this ever-growing collection of family photos continues to draw Mom back to what matters most.
For Mom, it is just one long continuum of family love—from her own cherished parents to her adored great grand-kids. Honoring and affirming past and present loved ones, all together at the same time.
It spells out a legacy of love and a life well lived.
Even if, to the casual observer, her life seems terribly curtailed, Mom continues to not just survive—but thrive, due to her attitude and the love she emanates back to others.
And by now, one thing’s for sure–you just can’t fake something like this when your 91 and survived what she’s survived. For her, it is more than just an attitude, which can be artificially summoned and tried on like a suit or tie–it is an unshakable faith. And a certainty.
Mom has dodged more fatal endings than I can recall looking back now. In fact, she has plotted more inconceivable comebacks than the entire collection of the Rocky movie sequels put together.
And a large reason for this, is her dogged determination to come back home. That vital link has never dulled no matter the physical limitations and the buildup of time.
May we all be so fortunate at the end of our golden years, to maintain such a fierce connectivity to our home and loved ones—as evidenced by the photos we keep around us in our tight little living space, amidst all the usual suspects of saltine crackers, salt shakers, ketchup packets, and box of tissues.