STAYING LONGER

Frisbee Golf, waiting for players. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Frisbee Golf, waiting for players. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Maggie: This is Spring? Wow! Cool.

Maggie: This is Spring? Wow! Cool.

Pikes Peak~ Springtime in the Rockies.

Pikes Peak~ Springtime in the Rockies.

Dear Mom,

In the last two weeks, Spring burst out in Kansas with greening lawns  accented with bright yellow, purple and white crocus blossoms.  Spring also brought tornado warnings to Ft. Scott, along with hail the size of golf balls. During that same time, in Colorado winter stayed longer and lived up to its reputation of “Springtime in the Rockies,” which means bursts of snowstorms and bitter winds.

Remember when David and I were in elementary school and everyone in southeast Kansas woke up to a late winter storm of nearly two feet of snow?  Our cousins George and Glee had come from Missouri to spend the night and were supposed to go home that day. Because of the blizzard they stayed four extra days, and we kids were in heaven.  Markus Zusak could have been writing about us in his novel, The Book Thief, when he said, “A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.” The four of us built snow forts and tunnels in the back yard, launched snowball wars, and peeled out of wet boots, hats, mittens and coats at the back door so we could come inside and warm up with hot chocolate and oatmeal cookies.

On the last day, when the roads were cleared and we learned our cousins would leave the next morning, I sneaked into the laundry room to take Glee’s clean socks that waited to be packed. I planned to hide them behind the piano, certain that she couldn’t go home if she didn’t have her socks. (I admit it was a dumb plan, but I was 8 and doing the best I could, okay?)  You caught me hiding her socks.

While the others got to watch “Superman” on TV, you and I had a sit-down talk in my bedroom. I remember sobbing that it wasn’t fair that my big-girl cousin (Glee was 3 years older) couldn’t stay longer.  You didn’t hug me or console me. You sighed and said that I could either enjoy every hour I had left with my cousins and be grateful for that time…or I could feel sorry for myself, sit and cry, and miss out on all the good things that might happen.

That was more than five decades ago, Mom, but I still remember those options. Even now, when I come to visit you in Kansas, if you’re napping or unresponsive or confused about who I am or why I’m there, I just keep moving. I take out bottles of fingernail polish and ask you to choose the color you like, or I hold up a book and start reading to you, or I open the sack of treats I’ve brought and ask you what looks good. After a while, we’re oohing and aahing as I paint your nails a bright pink, or we’re smiling as I wipe cupcake icing off your mouth. You don’t always realize who I am, but I always love it when you pat my hands and say, “You’re just the nicest girl.”

I don’t try to guess how much longer it will stay like this for our visits each month, but while we are together, we’ll make the most of the time we do have instead of crying because it can’t be longer.  That’s all any of us can do, at any age.

 ________________________________________________

“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many names for love.”  ~ Margaret Atwood 

“A lot of people like snow. I find it an unnecessary freezing of water.” ~Carl Reiner

“Let every man shovel his own snow, and the whole city will be passable.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hoping for Spring!

Hoping for Spring!

Fountain at Cliff House frozen in snow storm.

Fountain at Cliff House frozen in snow storm.

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61 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

61 responses to “STAYING LONGER

  1. Both beautiful and prophetic, your mother’s words were in perfect balance with the sock hunt, and ascend perfectly into your actions and thoughts as you face the situation today. Brings another set of tears to my eyes and smiles to my heart. Thank you for that poignant reminder of living in the moment with a choice.

    • Thanks, K. As you know, my mom had a really rough time last week. But it seems that just when I’m taking a deep breath, bracing for what comes next–whatever it is–a memory of Mom, and one of her messages to me many years ago, taps on my shoulder and whispers in my ear…”do you remember this?”

  2. PS. Love that shot of Maggie!

    • It’s great, isn’t it? Last year we didn’t have these late snowstorms, and she’s loving it! It’s how she gets her “baths”–prancing and diving, rolling in the snow and grinning, so proud of herself.
      I imagine Azim is having the same snow fun in Black Forest?

    • Wherever you are today, painting and creating wonderful things, if it’s warm breezes or cold snowstorms, your art always is a tribute to color and energy. Thanks for your many kind words.

  3. Amy

    …because it can’t be longer… at any age — eloquently said. Thank you Marylin! Have a nice weekend.

  4. ‘Make the most of the time we do have…’ I’m going to remember this…thank you

  5. What a valuable lesson for all of us. And how thrilled your mother would be to know that to this day, you live that advice to the fullest. 🙂

    • You’ll appreciate this, Carrie. Four years ago, soon after my dad died, I was visiting Mom and folding her clean laundry. This was when she had early dementia, and I held up two socks and asked Mom if she remembered the snowstorm when the cousins were snowed in with us. She thought for a moment and shook her head, no, but later she woke up from a nap and asked, “Did you put my socks behind the piano?”

  6. Your mother has/had commonsense in abundance. She understood how to get to the heart of the matter and she passed the gift onto you.

  7. This is the first time I’ve found your blog, but it won’t be the last. Wonderful.

  8. Hi Marylin,
    I popped in as promised. Well, I don’t need to promise to come over for a visit. As I mentioned on my blog, I fought back the tears today reading your touching experience of what it’s like each month when you visit your mom. I know I always say this, but your mom was so wise when she told you, you could either enjoy the few hours remaining or could sit and sulk. Wise, wise woman. I enjoyed the photos too and Margaret Atwood’s quote.
    I have a very close friend whose mom has Alzheimer’s and she’s not long for this world, so I have some idea what you’re going through. You’re an awesome daughter. 🙂

    • Thank you, Tracy, that’s nice of you to say that.
      I wish your friend strength and comfort and supportive friends as she faces the last months with her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and also moments of joy when she remembers her mother at her best. I’m glad she has your friendship.

  9. Such sweet memories of you and your cousins Marylin. And the link to “The Book Thief” – perfect! That was a great read and I remember the line well. Your mother, I have to say it once again, is ever so wise. What tremendous advice she gave you, and something you can carry with you forever. And the present pats on the hand…what a loving jester. Cherish those little moments…they will always be there to make you smile. Blessings, Robyn

    • I do cherish those moments, Robyn. The memories come at unusual time, like this past week when we had sudden blizzards and I smile as I remember all those years ago when I hid my cousin’s socks.

  10. Such a lovely post!…Christine

  11. Reading through your posts opens the door to many memories. I’ve been through watching a parent’s decline, and the one thing I am grateful for is that she never forgot me. Your idea of writing to her is wonderful and will benefit both of you. I look forward to more of your memories.
    Thank you for your visit which led me to you.

    • It’s hard to go through, that’s for sure, but I’m glad your mother always knew you. My mom rarely realizes who I am or where she is, but there are moments…and memories…and occasional laughs and holding hands and just being there, that mean so much. Thanks for stopping by, Lulu. Please join us again.

  12. Such a sweet post. I love that your mother can still recognise generosity and beauty of spirit even if the name to go with it is missing.

  13. Glee Kracl

    Oh, Marylin, how often I intend to reply; then forget to come back and do so. But the sock story!!!! Those were MY socks! And I remember parts of the visit. I’ve been enjoying your blog so much. I can relate to each and every story because I was lucky, in that your mother was MY Aunt Mary! I always loved her. She had the greatest smile, so soft, gentle and accepting of everyone and everything! I didn’t even know she could get mad until I read about the bully in the neighbothood “sicing” his dog on you. You have an exceptional mom and she has an exceptional daughter who is carrying on her mother’s love and appreciation for all. I look forward to your next lesson for life.

    • Oh, Glee, I remember hiding your socks, wanting so badly for you to have to stay if you couldn’t find them! Thanks for all the sweet words about my mom–Your Aunt Mary–and I’m glad you now know she could also be a mother bear with a broom when she had to be!
      I have so many of the same memories of Aunt Lucile–your mom–our family was very blessed with so many exceptional, strong, kind women.
      I’m loving your Facebook pictures with your grand babies–aren’t grandchildren the best stage ever?!–you look so happy and young holding your newest little guy. Please visit the blog again and contribute your memories. These are for my grandchildren–Mom’s great-grandchildren–and hearing from their great-cousin Glee will be special.
      p.s. I did finally give you back your socks, didn’t I?

  14. Take THAT, evil Alzheimer’s disease. Even you can’t hold back the love, goodness, humor, and wisdom of Mary. Now it’s even spreading around the world, despite your wretched attempt to keep it in.

    You lose.

    • Oh, Darla, I love you, and my mother would hugHugHUG you if she could!
      You have a wonderful way of attacking Alzheimer’s and dementia, reminding me that it can’t stop who my mom was/is and all the differences she’s made in the world, one person at a time.
      Thank you, dear Darla.

  15. Wow, that’s a lot of snow for April. I’m glad your dog is enjoying it.
    Your mom gave you such wise advice, I’m going to start using it with my kids when needed. Although I have to say, I’m not sure they’ve been in this situation yet. But I’m sure it will change. You’re an amazing daughter!

    • Today is sunny with bright blue skies and warm breezes. People are hiking, golfing, working in their yards. It’s the beauty of Colorado, the mixture of weather and LOTS of sunshine.
      Kids are never too young to make a choice about being grateful for the gift of even a few hours of joy. My mom started me young. It’s good she did; I had to be reminded of it over and over!

  16. dianabletter

    One reason why my husband Jonny moved back to Israel was because he said, “I never want to see another snow flake again.” I can relate to the way you keep moving to counter your mother’s unresponsiveness. Forward motion is always better than staying stuck in the problem. Thanks, Marylin!

    • Jonny probably has the right idea, but as much as I sigh over the late, short springtime, I really do love the beauty of snow, kids and dogs romping and making snowmen. I’d miss it if it were gone forever.
      One thing Alzheimer’s and dementia have taught me is to keep moving, Diana, keep doing things and thinking. At least so far, it’s worked to invigorate my mother, too.

  17. “Your just the nicest girl”. Isn’t that a lovely thing for her to say, even when she is a bit confused

  18. What a great memory! We are so selfish when we’re little. It’s always about us and never about the moment. That’s why there’s moms. To put things in perspective!

    • You’re so right!
      Moms have a lot of important responsibilities in “growing” healthy kids, and keeping things in perspective is at the top of the list!
      Children (and teens!) can be so self-concerned and dramatic!)

  19. Marti Smith

    Oh Marylin,This post so touched my heart. There was a period when, as I was back staying with my Mom (and Dad), I would be in the upstairs bedroom at night– and I would listen to the constant hum and whoosh of Mom’s oxygen machine. I would get so depressed thinking that she was totally dependent on that damn machine for her breath. One night, it struck me– why am I wasting so much time being a “sad-sack” over this? And then I remembered “en este momento; Spanish for “in this moment.” That same sound meant that my mom was still alive; I could still hug her and talk to her; she was still HERE. After her last breath– on May 11, 2009; the dawn of Mother’s Day– we turned the machine off… and the quiet was deafening. I had a dear friend in Lima, who was a star Masters swimmer for the Peruvian Masters Swim Team. He was 1 year younger than me– but 50 years older soul-wise. We wrote and emailed each other often. The few times that we were able to be together in person were precious times– and I would always get sad about halfway through the visits as I knew they would end all too soon. Lucho (my friend) would draw me back, and remind me that “en este momento”– in this moment– we were together. En este momento. I repeated that phrase to myself many times during my last few years with my parents. It focused me– and made me appreciate the situation I was in. Lucho passed away, suddenly, from an aneurism in January 2007– a few months after I lost my 55-year old brother. Lucho was 46. And when I am in the middle of something that I really enjoy– or am with someone I love– I can still hear him saying quietly and gently– “en este momento.” Marti

    • Oh, Marti, thank you. “En este momento”–the most important lesson of all. The realization that the sound of the oxygen machine meant your mother was still alive and a part of your life…and how after the machine was turned off the quiet was deafening–this had a profound impact on me. We learn from each other, and I’m so grateful to you for sharing this.

  20. Dear Marylin, A beautiful post, as always. I love the Margaret Atwood quote. Blessings, Ellen

    • I love it, too, Ellen. We have different categories of love, but I don’t think that’s what the Eskimos mean. Love needs to be so precious to us, so important, that even 50 words isn’t enough.

  21. Ah Marylin, you had me crying, thinking of you with your mom today. What a wonderful daughter you are, holding dear the memories of her when you were a child. I also recalled memories of my own, growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the joy of being able to stay home from school because there was another blizzard. You’ve awakened other memories of making angels in the snow along with the snowball fights with friends. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  22. Your mother’s advice really is classic and applies to so many situations. I find that I do not always listen to her advice but more times than not I later learn I should have! I learn so much every day from my mom and thank you for sharing your memories here xx

  23. Oh, I do know what you’re saying, Christy. Even now, when I realize some jewel of advice my mother shared, I also realize how many years I’ve had so many memories and bits of wisdom I’ve had sitting on a shelf, there but not used, for so long.

  24. Lovely advice. Seize the day! Enjoy! There’s no need to waste time worrying about what cannot be. Marilyn, your Mom’s right. “You’re just the nicest girl.”

    • Oh, Judy, at my age I have to chuckle at anyone calling me a girl! But, hey, I’ll claim it, especially when my mother calls me the nicest girl.
      Seize the day! Carpe diem! With both hands! Absolutely!

  25. Inspiring message. I always look forward to reading your posts.

  26. As always, full of daily insight and wisdom, Marilyn.I love the sock story and your mom’s advice. I see children coddled through every disappointment and wonder how they will ever function as adults. They should read your blog.

    • Bless her heart, my mother did not coddle me, Lynne. She was loving and kind, but also no-nonsense about the things she knew to be right and important for me to understand. I’m still smiling at your suggestion that coddled children should read my blog. I doubt it would mean much to them, but they’re welcome to visit!

  27. Marylin, your mom’s advice to enjoy and make the most of the time we have left applies to all of life, huh? Love your words!

  28. What a great story and I love the quotes (particularly Margaret Atwood’s quote – so true) 😀

  29. Marylin, just wonderful, I just wish I had been as wise as your Mom when my kids were growing up, but at least I am getting the benefit of her wisdom through you and these truly wonderful posts xxxx (sorry I’ve been missing in action, promise to do better – in for a cat scan tonight and then a gast something or other tomorrow )

    • Tom, trust me, you and I both wish we’d been as wise as my mother. Her lessons were wonderful, but I was a headstrong kid who had to learn them again and again.
      So good to hear from you! Prayers for good results on your tests so you’ll soon be back at full speed.

  30. Nancy Gibbs

    As always, a lovely tribute from just the nicest girl!

  31. Coming from a nice Texas girl with a great accent, that’s just the nicest thing you could have said! Thank you, ma’am!

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