Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why little scraps of paper?

The last two years has involved an incredible personal and family journey, as my 91-year-old mother (and we) have adjusted to the results of her being operated on (at age 89) for a brain tumor. The good news is that she is still with us, humor in tact. The bad news is that she has lost her short-term memory. She is surrounded by little scraps of paper, reminders of what to do, when, who phoned, what she ate—all things she is trying to remember. In addition to the scraps of paper, I have become her institutional memory. She has asked me about things that happened to her before I was born, as well as the daily date, month, and year, as she tries to organize thoughts in her mind, only to be lost again.

A retired middle school science teacher, my mother has taught me my whole life—even now. She has taught me about aging. She has taught me to be graceful and grateful. She has taught me to maintain one's sense of humor, even in the grimmest of times. She has taught me to appreciate the love of friends and family. She has taught me that when you grow old, you still want your dignity. You still want to be valued. You still want to be loved and appreciated for who you are, for the essence of you.

When my grandmother was in her nineties, I remember my mother saying to me, "If I ever become like Nana...." I now find myself repeating the phrase to my own children: "If I ever become like Grandma...."

But there are some moments, when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the daily phone calls and weekly visits to maintain my mother's home (including handling her mail, her finances, her food shopping, her cooking, etc.) and be her memory that I realize this might be an unfair burden to ask my children...to be my memory, that is, to remind me of how I want to grow old.

So, as my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and our children, have tried to help my mother adjust to her new normal, I have started jotting down things I want to remember as I age. Technology has allowed my little scraps of paper to be digital. Nevertheless, this blog will serve as those notes to my older self.

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