Yesterday, I found myself thinking of my Mother in a big way. I was remembering when she and my step-dad made the decision to sell their home because he was no longer physically able to climb the stairs that led to their bedroom. It was an older two story home where most of the bedrooms and a bathroom were upstairs. A second bathroom and small bedroom were on the basement level and none of these on the main floor. Steps were required in either direction and he was very limited in how many he could climb or descend.
As I thought about them, my mind went back to their time of great joy when they bought this old house and how they lovingly and enthusiastically restored it. They replaced windows where needed, they wallpapered and painted and did some antique finishing on woodwork. A new set of kitchen cabinets were installed along with new lighting, new flooring and new carpeting throughout. They felt a great deal of pleasure and pride working on their home, never thinking of the times ahead and how the aging process may affect their ability to enjoy their home. These were busy, active years for them and also a time where they spent several years in South America. They would fly home and regal us with their stories of adventure in the Andes mountains. We loved hearing these stories! We children were grown and living independantly in our own homes, so this was a time in their life where the world was their oyster. I was very close to my Mother, so through the years, I spent a great deal of time with her which gave me a first row seat to their life as they were going through the various phases of aging.
They were lively, fun loving, and engaging, and as a result of their vibrant personalities, their children were drawn to them like bees to honey. . Never would any of us, and especially not them, have thought they would be faced with eventual health conditions that would change their pace with life. They were so dynamic, it just didn’t occur to any of us. But, as with anyone who has been blessed with many years on earth, it was just a matter of time and circumstance.
My mother was only two years older than I am right now when they sold their home. I drove up to their place to help them when they began to sort and pack up all the things they wanted to sell or donate. They were reducing their stuff to fit their newly reduced living circumstances. It was a lot of work and we were grateful the work was behind us when the last inch of house was clean and ready for the new owners. We shut and locked the front door, put the keys in a specified place, took one last look around the property before we drove off to their next home. We all were wiping tears off of our cheeks as we said goodbye to a wonderful house that used to be a gathering place for our whole family. The good thing about those memories is that they weren’t left behind the locked door of that house. They came along with us, tucked away in our minds eye, to look at any time we needed a smile or a lift. My mother used to say a phrase that would always make me laugh…She said when I asked her how she felt about the shrinking down of things from her life..”Well, in all truth, no matter how much or how little I have, everywhere I go, there I am!” We both giggled when she said it, and then she said “The thing I have learned is that no matter where I live, and I have lived in a lot of places, I live the same. One just learns to adjust!” I think of this now as I adjust my sails for the swells of lifes ocean that are waiting for us..I hope I am as graciously accepting of life as she has been, and as brave.
So, what ever happened to their later years? Their life continued to hum along, albeit a bit slower with ongoing and increasing health concerns and problems. Everytime I think of them I am newly and deeply impressed with their courage and acceptance of how things became. They understood the word grace.. They moved their stuff one more time after that, leaving Minnesota to live closer to my brother and her brother who both lived in Michigan not far from where she grew up. I had moved to Texas with my husband due to career demands not long after they sold the house and Texas was not on their radar at all! My stepfather died within two years of the sale of their home at the age of 75. My Mother lived an additional 11 years and died at the age of 83. Though we had watched her health diminish, it still comes as a shock when ones Mother dies! Something inside me curled up in a ball and died too. I missed her that much.
In my minds eye I can still see the two of them out dancing and laughing long ago when we all went out for the evening together. It has been said that we regret the things we do not do in this life. I am so glad for all the times we went to a great personal cost and effort to spend times with them, to show our parents on both sides how much we loved them. Far more than any material gift we ever gave them, they enjoyed and wrapped themselves in the time we spent with them the most. Our gift to them ended up being our gift to ourselves as well….the gift of love flowing back and forth. When I think of our parents now….neither of us have very many regrets at all!
So, now it is our turn to face this thing called aging. So far, we have been incredibly blessed with good health and feel immeasurable gratitude for it. We are still living in our one story home of 20 years and hope we can stay here for a good while longer, but we know the clock of our life is ticking louder and louder. We find ourselves remembering the ages of our parents death and then we find ourselves subtracting our age as some sort of measure for the time we have left. I am not going to lie….it is unnerving when we do this. But then, I think of the adversity they faced in their aging and how they wore the beautiful face of acceptance and grace and I know I will use their beautiful brave example in living as my road map to our future, however long that will be.
I will take the lessons I learned from them and put them to good use. I will pray for the same courage and acceptance and grace our parents showed us as they continued their march towards the light of the next world. At the end of the day, all we have is grace, and it is a wonderful strength to draw upon.