Saturday, September 26, 2009

When I Get Old...

My mother had an uncanny way of coming out with the most alarming things to say. They were things that would stop you dead in your tracks and make you listen. One of her famous opening lines was this, "When I get old......." Now this is not something a child really wants to hear coming from a parent's mouth because these are the three words that would come to my mind and hang gloomily over my head after she would speak: OLD, DEAD, ORPHAN. I have to say that Mom said this so often that I eventually got used to it and stopped sniffling every time I'd hear the familiar opening phrase. What usually followed the first four words was this: "......when the time comes, I don't want you to feel guilty about having to put me in a nursing home if I need to be in one ."

When Mom first entered Barclay, she had a little bit of trouble adjusting to the fact that this was her new home...for good. I would often visit her and at some point during the visit she would tell me to start packing her things because she was ready to leave now. Oh how painful this was for me to hear. I would take a deep breath and look her in the eye and repeat the phrase that she so often had said to me. Once I was finished, she would look at me and nod and that would be the end of it for that particular visit. This went on for about a year until finally she stopped. It was never easy to tell her that she was staying, but I took comfort in her lingering words ..." don't feel guilty...." I had to keep reminding myself that these were her words and I know she meant it. As shocking as it was to hear when I was younger, I am grateful now for her foresight.

I too have an uncanny way of blurting out things to my children to make them stop dead in their tracks. Unlike my mother, I have a more impish way about me and enjoy tormenting my kids whenever possible. So my opening phrase sounds more like this, "When I die...." Unfortunately, I don't have the same idea as my mother did about releasing my kids from the guilty feelings of having to put me in a nursing home. Instead, I am secretly hoping, that when the time comes, I will have to move in with my middle daughter who just so happens to be named Martha. This is strictly to repay her for all the annoying teenager-y-ness that she has put me through lately. I am also secretly hoping that during this time of feeding and diapering me, her ailing mother (while simultaneously adoring me and telling me how right I was), she will be raising triplet teenage girls! The rest of my phrase is this: "...... I want you to spread my ashes in a beautiful garden." I then go on to remind them not to throw them (me) into the wind because then they will get a mouthful of ashes (me) and that would not be so pleasant. However ridiculous this sounds, I am actually very serious and I think they know this.

As usual, my mother had incredible, unselfish foresight for which I am eternally grateful. Maybe someday when I settle down and stop tormenting my children I will follow in her unselfish behavior but right now I am having waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to much fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bitter Sweet; Not Just Chocolate

This I believe: God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and on the 7th day He rested......but while He was supposedly resting, He was really creating dark chocolate.....for ME! 70-72% bittersweet, dark creamy heavenly tasting CHOCOLATE. I have stashes of this dark pleasure hiding in various spots around my house so that I can snatch a nibble ( okay, it's more like a chunk) whenever my heart desires. The combination of the mouth watering sweetness followed by the savory bitterness of this wonderful creation is much like the aging process of our loved ones. The sweetness is the easiest part. It's the bitterness that, by itself, is tough to swallow.

I adored my paternal and very British grandmother who teetered around on her skinny bird legs while calling people Daphne Lightheart and Archibald when she couldn't think of their names. When she had to use the restroom she used to say things like, "I've got to go spend a penny!" I spent many hours enjoying her company and her marvelous sense of humor. She was always my room mate when my brother and I would accompany my Dad on his business trips. What an adventure we would have with lots of laughs, pillow fights, good food and just being together. When she grew old she suffered from Alzheimer's. Her sad decline nearly broke my heart. I was truly relieved when she died at the ripe old age of 98 (dear God take me home before that age!).

I remember the bitter day when reality hit me that Grandmom was loosing it. I was with Dad looking at colleges and we had brought Grandmom along for the outing. Dad was so good to bring her along on our little excursions and I really did love having her with us. That particular day she was just not right. She seemed more agitated than her usual jovial British self and she looked disheveled. What was going on? After viewing Gettsyburg College, we set out to find a nice place to eat (always an added bonus on our excursions and really the only reason why I came!). Grandmom was so confused. She kept rattling on about how she couldn't find her car keys and her purse (they were right there on her lap) until finally she burst into tears. My heart nearly broke for my Dad and for my Grandmom. I don't remember the rest of that trip but I do remember that Grandmom was never the same after that. That day was a mix of sweetness with a little too much bitterness.

As I watch my parents grow old, my thoughts are in constant memory mode. Visually, they are just like any other aging parent or grandparent, but then they do something, or say something that gives me a flash of my past and then I am thrust down memory lane when we were all so much younger and so full of life. These are the sweet memories with just a hint, every now and then, of the lingering bitter thought that they are in the last phase of their life. Okay, okay, I know it's depressing but it is reality after all.

I am thankful that, like chocolate, I can wrap up morsels of my memory in a piece of paper and stuff them in the secret hiding places of my brain so that I can easily pull them out when I need quick fixes. MMmmm, sweet with just a hint of bitter. What a perfect combination.