My mom lives in an assisted living facility here in Red Deer, and I am so grateful for the superb care and attention she receives.
She’s grateful for it, too. But as friendly, caring and helpful as the staff is, there is something different about when a family member or a good friend drops by for a visit.
I can see it for myself when I visit my mom.
But as I walk into the facility and then leave it later in the evening to go home, I am regularly struck by the same notion. I rarely, and I mean rarely, see other people in the building visiting the residents.
Now of course I’m not there 24/7 so maybe it’s unfair to say that.
But I get the sneaking suspicion that many of these folks don’t consistently see that much of family members let alone friends or even acquaintances.
I have to wonder why.
Again, I know that not everyone is close to their parent for any number of reasons. I also know that not everyone lives in the same community as their aging parents. I’m not including those folks in the ‘point’ of this column.
Who I am speaking to are those that simply choose to not visit or only opt for the ‘obligatory’ drop in.
I’m sure there are plenty of excuses that run the gamut from ‘I’m just too busy’ to ‘Mom is perfectly taken care of, I don’t need to worry about her’ to ‘Dad has lots of new pals to chat with through the day; he won’t notice too much if I don’t drop by quite as often’.
But I wonder if the reasons for staying away run deeper.
Maybe we tend to look at seniors in a different light, as though they aren’t quite the same people they used to be. The conversations maybe aren’t the same so the visits aren’t quite the same. They are perhaps forgetting things or are confused at times.
Maybe it’s just too painful to watch.
But I do believe, and I think it’s obvious from our youth-obsessed culture, that the older you get, the more ‘set to the side’ you can feel. Heck, I’m 50 and I have felt it already.
Imagine being elderly for a moment.
One day you look in the mirror and instead of a young, let alone ‘middle-aged face’, you see an old countenance staring back at you. Where have the years gone? When did I get to this stage? Surely this is a season of life when support, compassion and love are all the more important.
It makes me think of one of my favourite singers, Twyla Paris, who once penned a song called Same Girl.
It describes how we need to remember that the older folks in our lives were once young, vibrant and strong. But the meaning goes far deeper. Even though they are now frail and so very vulnerable, there are still the ‘same’ people.
The core of their identity likely hasn’t changed that much at all.
It’s hard to believe this at times. I see my tiny, frail, beloved mother and I can hardly believe this is the same woman who used to be so strong, so independent, so busy with any number of tasks.
Now, she tires easily. But when I look at her, I’m reminded of those words from Same Girl and I’m also reminded that my mom is still that ‘strong, vibrant, and spirited’ woman today that she was all those years ago. I think it’s critical to remember this truth.
As Same Girl points out, ‘Picture with me if you can/a little girl in a younger land/running, playing, laughing/growing stronger. Now the aging limbs have failed/and the rosy cheeks are paled/look behind the lines till you remember/she’s still the same girl/flying down the hill/she’s still the same girl/memories vivid still.
‘Listen to her story/and her eyes will glow/she’s still the same girl/and she needs you so.’
‘She’s still the same girl/wiser for the years/she’s still the same girl/stronger for the tears/listen to her story/and your heart will glow/she’s still the same girl/and we need her so.’
That last line touches me. ‘And we need her so’.
I, for one, can’t express how much my mom means to me. I am so grateful for her, for her words of wisdom, for her constant concern for me and her unconditional love.
Who else asks me what I had for supper? Or where my coat is? Or what she can get me to eat? That’s a good parent for you – constantly ‘on your side’ with a love that doesn’t fade in the least with the passage of time.
If you have a parent that you love nestled away in a comfortable home, don’t let the burdensome pace of our society and the constant demands on your time pull you away from making it a point to see them on a regular basis. Consider this a gentle reminder from a fellow traveler. I don’t judge; I’m only ‘nudging’.
Again, I’m not naive to think every parent/child relationship is perfect.
But even the good relationships can fall into serious neglect. As the song points out, we really do ‘need them still’.