Proceed With Tenderness

July 15, 2015

I am sorry not to be more original in my southland photos… sunsets, harbors… yeah, yeah.

Drove along the water on our way to dinner…


And, about 30 minutes later, the view from our window seat at the fish place:


It was a lovely day, like most days I spend with my mom, but it was not an easy day  These just aren’t relaxing days. They’re emotional minefields. My mom is kind of a wreck. I know–I can see–it’s hard to lose, one by one, so very many things in your life that you love and value. Friends, family members, independence, mobility, comfort, activity, a social life. Not to mention it’s hard to see, hear, eat, sleep, digest, process. And move, did I say move? I mean like from one room to another. Or, as the day goes on, from one chair to another.

Hard to be the stylin’ gal you’ve always thought yourself to be, tethered to oxygen, wobbling with a cane.

As grateful, I think, as my mom is to even be living–with a critical mass of brain cells intact, children and grandchildren more or less nearby, a great grandchild on the way, great books to read, tennis matches to watch, pleasing views out the window, and all the rest–aging is not at all something she’s handling well. It’s the shits. At least that’s my observation of my mom’s experience of it. She’s frustrated, short tempered, fearful, lonely, in a lot of discomfort and, on top of it all, so self-critical it’s just painful. Hard to recognize her as mi mama.

I vow, I really do, to not ever find aging to be anything less than a privilege. This is the miracle of life we’re talking about! It’s more than a worthwhile tradeoff. And I vow to look at aging as a challenge to be met with grace, humor, humility, and unending gratitude.

I want the same for her but she’s not having it.

She has so much to be grateful for. She is so fortunate.  And yet her frustration trumps all. Frustrated as she is, she is not willing to accept or put into place the kind of help she needs. Too proud. Too stubborn. C’mon, mom, cowboy up!!

And I know this is right out of Readers’ Digest, but I am not kidding, this is the level of conversation we have so often these days, and that we had continually over the last four days. Reminders of what’s good. A calm approach to prioritizing what’s important and evaluating all the options. A frank look at where we are and what our resources are.

I’m guessing I’m actually pretty clueless here. What do I really know about the process–the heartache, the loss, the pain. Being twenty six years younger may disqualify me. I probably have no right to lecture. To listen, yes… to be encouraging, yes…

If I’m lucky enough to make it to 86, I hope I’m a model aging senior. I hope at least one of the benefits of being my mom’s daughter is that I can learn from her experience. I’m hell bent on aging like a boss.

My mom, though? This is a work in progress. The four of us are mobilizing in new ways (well, Jay’s a bit out of the loop, but not for long). Normal keeps shifting.

Proceed with tenderness.

4 Responses to “Proceed With Tenderness”

  1. Michael Ann Says:

    Thought-provoking… I have no idea how I will be in old age. Gratitude… this is key for sure. Hard to do sometimes. I think you have to make it habit. Life is full of loss. I think this is the hardest part of aging and of life in general.

    • Kari Says:

      It’s so easy to be judgmental. I huge part of my sadness in observing her throughout this process is that I think she is working against herself and making things so much harder and more heartbreaking. There are good aspects to her life right now–thank goodness she’s got the resources to keep things very comfortable and to stay in her house, which she loves. But she’s always been a tough cookie and won’t allow herself to settle into aging with acceptance and joy. She’s fighting it all the way and is more often unhappy at what she can’t do, even embarrassed at what she can’t do, rather than grateful for what she’s got. She believes she’s a burden and she’s hard on herself for this. I’m sure aging gracefully is a lot easier said than done.

  2. Bev Says:

    As you know, I empathize. My mother never wanted to age the way she is…but she doesn’t realize it, so I’m sure it bothers me more than it does her. I just hope my kids are learning something from all this, ’cause I will probably end up being just like her.

  3. Elliot Margolies Says:

    This entry is so full of stuff to chew on. I really appreciate witnessing you lay it out – your Mom’s take and yours – and how we just don’t know how we’ll be til we get there. Difficult emotions have such a power to obscure everything else. Your love comes through throughout.

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