Mom is 91 years old. No one in her family has lived so long. Her mother died at 76, her father in his mid-fifties. Only her grandfather, Frank Hartwell, lived into his 80’s. Only the youngest of her three brothers is still alive. She has beaten all the odds, and surpassed them.
She is nearly blind and deaf. She has diabetes. She is weak and spends most of her day in bed, but she can still get herself up and use a walker to take herself to the potty. Her short term memory is shot. But memories of the past, of raising my sister and me, of Dad, of growing up in Puerto Rico (she often reverts to speaking Spanish, her first language) and St. John, these things are clear. She knows who people are when they come to visit once you put in her hearing aid and yell into her ear. Yet minutes after they have gone she has forgotten that they came.
But this is not about feeling sorry for her. This is about the constant daily lesson she teaches me.
This is about her thankfulness. She says “Thank you,” for every little thing Erva or I do for her. Because of her diabetes her back itches most all of the time. She is always wanting it scratched. “Scratch my back. Oh boy, does that feels good, thank you,” she says.
“Thank you for sitting with me.”
“Thank you for keeping me here,” she says in reference to keeping her at home. “I’m very grateful. I want you know that. I hope I’m not too much of a burden. I don’t know why I’ve lived so long.”
“I want to let you know that I had fun raising you girls,” she says. “I hope you had fun too.”
“Thank you,” she says as we wheel her up to the table for a meal. She has a wonderful appetite and eats most anything we put in front of her.
“Thank you for taking care of me.”
She thanks us for turning off the light when she asks. She thanks us for giving her a sponge bath. She thanks us for keeping her glass full of water. She thanks us for plucking her chin whiskers.
“I’m cold,” she says. “Thank you,” she says when we help her into a little jacket.
“What’s new and different in the outside world?” she asks. And though she won’t remember I tell here we have a black man running for president. “Well I’ll be darned,” she says. “Is he popular?” Then she answers her own question, “I guess he must be if he’s running for president. Thank you for keeping me informed.”
The lesson she teaches me is clear. I only hope I can be as gracious and thankful should I live as long as she has. I hope from day to day not to take anything for granted, but to remember to be thankful for every little thing that I have, that’s done for me, that’s given to me.
My hope is that everyone have an Aged P as easy to care for as my mother. But I know this is not the case. I know there are Aged Ps out there who are difficult. So this lesson isn’t about them, it’s about us, the care-givers, the children. The lesson is about our remembering to be thankful.
May each of us remember to be thankful.
If we were all thankful for every little thing the world would at be at peace. We’d be so busy saying “Thank you,” to everyone we wouldn’t have time to be jealous or angry. Our differences of opinion, our need to be right, our selfishness would disappear.
Thank you, Mom, for continuing to teach me on a daily basis. Thank you for being my mother. Thank you for all the wonderful memories. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being thankful.
I am humbled and honored to be your daughter.