My mother is a rock in my garden. Always has been. At the age of one when my father died, she took my small hand in hers and since that time we have faced the good and bad in our lives, the birth of my children, her grandchildren, the marriages left behind and those coming up, together. 2013 did not start out well for our small band with the passing of my stepfather. Will, a decorated World War II pilot, commercial pilot, jazz pianist, tennis player extraordinaire, and father of three is much missed in our circles. For my mother, this was the end of yet another chapter in her life, and the opening of a new one. Encircled by a ring of friends and loved ones she struggled with her loss after the activities involved in saying goodbye to one who has passed are over, and the business of getting on with living without them must be faced. It is a lonely place to find yourself.
As is often said about aging parents, the rolls can subtlety shift between parent and child as the years progress. At some point adult children may be required to take the baton from their parents and find themselves in the position of caretaker rather than visa versa. It has been a difficult time this transition. Mother, fiercely independent, while at the same time fearful in some ways, wants to maintain her life in the home she shared with Will. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is although the house is the same, and she the same in it, the fact that Will is not there makes everything vastly different. Grief is something none of us can escape. If we exist for any amount of time on this earth, no matter how much wealth we have amassed, our standing in the community, or how good or giving a person we are, we cannot avoid facing loss at one point or another. No aide, friend, family member, or paid associate can assume this burden for us. It is a personal journey.
Usually I am the one in the family carrying the solution book. This time I have to admit I don’t have all the answers. We speak four times a day. I visit as often as possible, as there are four hours driving distance between us. I encourage outside activities, having friends over, getting a roommate (already tried unsuccessfully), moving in with us, and taking up a hobby. The truth is, for the last ten years my mother focused on taking care of her husband and now he is gone she is trying to figure out where her piece fits in the puzzle without connecting to his piece. Each day, however, things seem a little brighter for her. Time, as it will, has a way of taking the edge off of memories, allowing us to view them with less pain, even embrace them with joy.
As the Baby Boomer generation moves up in the ranks this conundrum is going to become a familiar one. Living longer as a rule, the scenario I’m describing above will repeat itself over and again. Unless by an act of God, one parent is going to leave before another and some parents either by choice, or providence will have no partners entering their golden years. I feel extremely fortunate my mother is here with us in all ways, her batteries fully charged. I learn from her every day about how I want to be when I reach her age and what I want to do now to plan ahead. Hopefully I inherited some of her strengths, undoubtedly some of her weaknesses, nearly all of her stubbornness (and I passed that on in spades), as well as undeniably bearing witness to the fact every time I see my reflection in the mirror I am carrying her genes forward as will my offspring and theirs.
One thing I have noted, it is important to create your own happiness. The world will not stop to dry your tears and the harsh reality is that once the dust has cleared after someone has passed on, others return to their lives, which is as it should be. Attitude and willingness to continue learning and exploring have a great deal to do with, I believe, the success of full life once you have reached the golden years. Waking up each day with a positive outlook and making use of the time allotted you constructively and with enthusiasm rather than sitting on the couch waiting for your arteries to harden or living in a past which is exactly as described, passed. Not simply filling time, but actually living.
People are remaining in the work force longer than before. Work, as I continually remind my grandchildren, will not kill you. Perhaps in the case of older citizens if can even be a catalyst for keeping a person involved and vital. This is not a credo I have been able to successfully drum into my grandchildren’s heads as yet, but then if you can’t get them to look up from their iPad, what really is the point of wasting the air? One granddaughter recently took an after school job at a dollar store. Her work schedule requires her to be on site three days a week for four hours. After the first day she informed her mother the work was excruciatingly hard, she was misunderstood, totally stressed, and took to her bed. Further, she described the position as practically slave labor where employees weren’t permitted to receive or send phone calls or texts, and there was no lunch break, only a ten minute break mid-shift. This made me smile. Perhaps I need to ship her over to India or China to work alongside children far younger than herself who toil in the sweat shops for pennies a day. Stooped over for a twelve-hour day in a hot warehouse, often without benefit of a chair to sit in, the cell phone issue may take on far less importance.
All generations have their issues. It has been said of the younger generation since the first group of elders they would amount to nothing, and yet we continue to progress. So, this Mother’s Day, I am saluting my Mom the best Mom/Dad combination going, all the mom’s to be, and those already signed up. Take the time to remember Mom, it is always appreciated. Mom’s come in all shapes and sizes, their loves transcends one species to another, and is endless and unconditional. Hope your day is special and the love abundant.
This potato salad is creamy and delicious. Do not undercook potatoes as they will be like pellets, and overcooked like mush. Keep an eye on them. A fork should be easily inserted.
A Dilly of a Potato Salad
15 medium russet potatoes
1 red onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
4 dill pickle spears, seeded and diced
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp. dill
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Place the potatoes in jackets in large pot. Cover amply with water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook on high simmer for 20 mins. or until potatoes are fork tender. Remove with slotted spoon and allow to cool.
In small bowl mix together milk and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 mins.
In small mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, milk/lemon juice, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard,dill, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When potatoes are cool, peel and dice into large bowl. Add onion, celery and pickles. Incorporate dressing into vegetables until well mixed and desired consistency. You may have some dressing left over. (I used extra dressing for dipping slices of cucumber.) Season to taste.
Spoon into serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika or decorate with a slice of red onion and thin slices of dill pickle spears as shown above.