Years ago, when my dad was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, during my visits Mom and I sometimes left him with his caregiver and promised to bring him a treat from wherever we went on our ride. It was always a difficult transition for Mom, leaving him behind, so on one visit I brought along a distraction, a CD of songs from Broadway’s most popular musicals.
As I drove along the swath of Ozarks terrain cutting through our part of Kansas, one of our favorites from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF began to play: “Sunrise, Sunset.” During the refrain—“…sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days…seedlings turn over night to sun flowers, blossoming even as we gaze…”—the Kansas sun set in a blaze of orange and gold and red. I pulled off the highway and stopped to enjoy it. In Colorado, the mountains are beautifully majestic, but they cut off the view of stunning sunsets.
As we watched the colors, I asked Mom which she enjoyed more, sunrise or sunset. Those of you who know my mother via my stories about her on this blog, what would you guess was her answer? Before her dementia, on summer mornings she was up with the sunrise to work in her gardens before the heat, and she would pause to breathe deeply and welcome the beautiful possibilities of the day. Also before the dementia, at sunset she’d watch the glow through her kitchen window or rest in her chair, tablet on her lap, and write lines of poetry or stories about the events and inspirations from the day. So which do you think she enjoyed more, the sunrise or the sunset?
Aubades are songs sung to the rising sun and poems written upon awakening at dawn. My mother kept a notebook of her aubades, poems of early morning. But she was also a fan of Ann Landers, who wrote in one of her columns, “A happy marriage has the tranquility of a lovely sunset.” Based on my dad’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, I guessed Mom’s loyalty to their marriage would choose sunsets as her answer.
She thought for a while and then finally said that her favorite time of day was noon. If the sun was going to be out, it would be at noon, and she liked the energy it gave her to get done whatever had to be done.
Sunrise. Sunset. Noon. As Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.” And more recently, author of A CHILD CALLED ‘IT’, Dave Pelzer wrote: “At the end of the day you still have to face yourself.”
Those were the lessons I learned from my mother’s answer that day: We take life one day at a time, and the best we can do is live that day the best we can.