Like many, I am guilty of squandering precious moments and have taken far too many things for granted in the haste and waste of immaturity and selfishness. In my casual youth, time frittered away as calendar pages turned. Like many, I must often learn lessons the hard way. Thankfully, I am much more cognizant these days of the little moments that weave together our rich and varied lives.
This morning I took my mom back to her lung specialist to see if an infection was improving with a regimen of antibiotics and steroids. I asked if it is OK for mom to be outside, and if being exposed to fall’s pollen and falling leaves could worsen her condition. My mom loves fall, the change of seasons, the cooler temps. An October baby, fall is my mom’s favorite season.
Mom’s doctor told me to take my mom where she wants to go, when she wants, as she feels like it — in other words: “Seize the Day” and make the most of this time we have with her. The doctor reminded me that it is “a quality of life issue” and if being outside brings my mom joy, we should embrace the joy and revel in the moments. Get outside and live a little before winter’s cold has us hibernating indoors, he advised.
We left the medical clinic, and I immediately drove to a favorite park. My mom’s caregiver and I spent the next hour pushing my mom around the walking paths. I watched my mom as she took in the falling leaves, beautiful weather, children’s squeals and giggles from the park playground.
My mom sat beside the lake and watched turtles sunning on flat rocks; an egret perched on a downed tree limb, take flight; ducks playing follow-the-leader along the lake’s edge. We huddled in the shade of a large oak tree and watched dedicated joggers made laps around the lake. My mom enjoyed a wonderful, unexpected outing, and I loved spending a quiet morning with her before heading to the office.
This evening, after getting home from work, my husband was in the kitchen, putting pastrami Reubens in the oven while I sat with my mom.
“Is he going to stay here tonight?,” my mom asked.
“Yes, mom, we are all going to stay here tonight — if that is okay with you,” I replied simply. I have learned through the muddle of Alzheimer’s that I travel where my mom’s mind has traveled. Where she has gone, I meet her on the path and we walk together.
“Are you going to keep that boy?,” my mom asked in earnest.
I laughed and answered: “Yes, mom I think we should keep him. He’s cooking our supper. He takes pretty good care of both of us, don’t you think?”
My mom nodded, grabbed for my hand.
“He has been a pretty good boy. I guess we should keep him,” she agreed. “And I think it’s okay if he stays here tonight.”
After dinner, as we were helping my mom get ready for bed, I asked her if a loose tooth was bothering her and driving her crazy.
“No Bear, I am already there — Crazy, that is,” she quipped.
We looked at each other in the bathroom mirror and laughed at our reflections laughing back. I hugged mom and told her we’d all be crazy together and take care of each other.
“Thank you. I love you, Bear.”
“I love you, too, Mama. I love you, too.”
These days, I have become very grateful for these small moments. I am grateful that my mom still enjoys these slivers of life, that she still has her wonderful sense of humor, that she still knows me and loves me. I am grateful for shared meals, shared laughs, shared prayers. I am grateful that she is still my mom, that together, we watch as fall blankets us with colored leaves and cooler days. I am grateful for the warmth of love and that our hands and hearts still touch.
I have a small plaque on my desk that reads: “Enjoy the little things in life, because one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Little BIG things. I get it now. I really do. It took me awhile, but I get it. … I get it.