Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Young or Old - You Deserve LOVE

This Mother's Day, after Mass, we went to visit my husband's 96 year old grandmother in the nursing home. As we sat there, in the dining room with her, I was once again struck by the vulnerability of these 'oldsters'. They sit in their chairs, day in - day out, and rely on someone else to give them compassionate care. Much like a newborn, they simply cannot do for themselves.

Ma Peak, as we have always called her, has dementia. This lovely lady actually lived alone until a few years ago; her husband died in 1994, the same year as my mother and Rick's mother - her only child. From that point on, she became our 'other child'. We brought her groceries, became her guardians, and took her to doctors' appointments until her mind began to fail and she became a danger to herself. A nursing home was the painful, only option. At first she struggled with this difficult decision of ours, but as her dementia worsened she became a resident in a world all her own. She knows certain things (and people) but the timeline is all wrong. Sometimes she is a young teen and speaks of her parents coming to get her. Other times she struggles with names and faces altogether. She shamelessly flirts, still loves anything pink, and remembers that Jesus loves her.

Some may wonder why we bother to keep up a regular stream of visits. After all, she really 'doesn't know anything'. The answer is simple - she knows she's happy when we're there. Whether or not she completely remembers our relationships or our children or her recent past, she finds joy in human contact. Much like an infant, she is dependent on others for everything. There are many similarities between oldsters and the very young:

  • They can't care for themselves...their source for basic necessities lies solely in the hands of others.  
  • Their need for demonstrations of love is endless and innocent.
  • Cognitive skills are few but they know when they're happy - and when they're not!
  • We owe them all the love, care, and compassion we can muster.
  • Our concern for them is part of the cycle of life.

Babies have their moral duties still ahead of them - in their future. It is our obligation as parents, to instill this responsibility in them. Oldsters, on the other hand, have 'done their time'. They have been that example to us. They have been there whether or not we thought we needed them. They have operated out of sheer love for our benefit.

I remember being a young bride of 17 - finishing high school and then college. Ma Peak was there for us in our newly wedded confusion and bliss. She cooked meals and brought them over when she and Pa visited. Much to my chagrin, when I would clean she would wipe up right behind me - as if I didn't know what I was doing. As a Methodist, she attended Rick's entry into the Catholic Church when his parents wouldn't. When the first baby came (with one year of college remaining), she watched him while I finished college. After I became a stay-at-home mom, one year later, she still offered to give us some alone time by babysitting - even after there were two little ones.

I have a saying that I share with my children or siblings when they are living through one of life's hard knocks.

'All you need to remember is, be the best (fill in name) you can be!'

As we strive to be 'the best me' we can be, remember that aged and infant alike, rely on us. We are a part of their cycle of earthly life. May we all strive to bring compassion to everyone who is placed into our lives. Young or old, they deserve LOVE!