This past week has been quite momentous as my mom reached the ripe age of 97. Given that she had a stroke almost ten months ago, in some ways it is quite miraculous that she is still here. So much has happened since the stroke and I have much to be grateful for. I have a small crew of caregivers – all from Jamaica; loving, caring and really good people. Having passed through the storm of the stroke, my mom now is fundamentally doing alright. She has at times difficult “moments,” but basically she is fine. She is well cared for and she still has this endearing sense of humor. As I reflect on this humor that is so infectious and which brings joy, lightness and laughter to everyone around her, I really do think it’s helped her maneuver through these “rocky” times very beautifully.
For example right now my mom has to be helped with so many of the basics of life. She is unable to walk, dress or go to the bathroom by herself. It’s difficult. She says she feels like a rag doll at times, but I never see her express self-pity. She really has in a sense surrendered her body to her caregivers and can laugh about it. She laughs how Pat, her primary caregiver, always washes her thoroughly from top to bottom every day saying in that comical tone, “I’m not even dirty!” She also laughs when she doesn’t recognize Pat (she can’t see well) and thinks Pat is someone else.
My mom loves to laugh. That’s the bottom line. If she hears laughing, she immediately wants to know what we are laughing about so she can join the party. She delights in the ridiculous, the quirkiness of human behavior, but it’s not malicious. Her laughter and humor are infectious – it comes from a deep place within and takes over her whole being. If you see her laughing, you might think she was crying…it’s that kind of abandonment.
The day before her birthday she was at quite a low point. She had an appointment with her cardiologist, was very tired and unfortunately had to wait a full hour before seeing him. It was torturous for her and there was nothing we could do. When the doctor came in, who she likes very much, humor again came to the rescue. She had given a plant to him two years ago and it was an on-going topic of interest as every time we went, the plant seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. We joked about the doctor definitely not having a green thumb. Well, this time right before he came in, Pat saw an empty flower pot in the corner of the room. She gasped! Yes, the plant had died. The doctor then told us the plant had been getting very “tired” and had just recently passed away. He said he was going to buy another one, a big one, and call it my mom’s name, Selma. So even with all her discomfort, she rose to the occasion like a true comedian and we laughed all the way home.
The next day, her birthday, was a whole other story. Right away she was happy to receive our birthday wishes, kisses and songs. Quite a few people phoned to wish her a happy birthday. We went to her favorite English Tea shop and afterwards had a birthday cake and celebration with Pat, her daughter and Pat’s two grandchildren who are six and one and a half. We had so much fun. The six year old girl gave a fashion show with my mom’s clothes and then we all came in with different outfits, including the little one and a half year old with a my mom’s scarf. We were all thoroughly amused.
So on the surface, my mom’s life has its ups and downs…some days are more down like the day before her birthday…..and some days are more up like her birthday, but beneath the surface ups and downs, there is a deeper place. I think it’s the source of her delightful sense of humor. It’s so absolutely positive. It’s that place in her that wants to give to others, to see people happy, to help… and it’s that place in her that loves to laugh for the pure joy of laughing, to feel good and that wants to make others feel good. And in spite of how much has changed for her, I feel that this is still the force that moves her being; a force that is young, that gravitates to life like the earth that yearly renews itself in spring. And it is here that we, her caregivers, friends and family meet, love and laugh together.
Happy Mother’s Day!