Lessons on aging gracefully: From my mother


My mother turns 92 later this year. She is many things: a poet, a painter, a preacher’s kid, a Foreign Service wife, grandmother, and probably one of the all around kindest people you will ever meet. She is also one of the toughest people you will meet. In the past ten years or so she has had several health issues which I guess is to be expected at her age. The body just starts to wear down. Osteoporosis has meant some fractures, atrial fibrillation means medications, but the most difficult issue has been the diagnosis of dementia about 8 years ago.

She is incredibly fortunate to have access to a team of dedicated and diligent medical professionals, and so it’s been wonderful that the disease has seemed to have plateaued. However, the plateau is still far from where she was. Although she can tell you stories from her childhood in China, she can’t remember if she had lunch an hour earlier. She has trouble getting her thoughts onto paper, but she can dictate an email to me with ease. She can’t paint the still lifes she did with watercolors for most of her life, but she can create the work above.

Some days are better than others. Some days she starts to put her shoes on before she puts on pants. Other days she jokes while getting dressed “I think it would be a good idea if I put on some pants.”  She loves a cup of coffee but would get confused at using the coffeemaker. She gets confused in new places and just needs calm guidance. She walks with a walker, but when the stairs became too much we installed a stair glide so she could get upstairs to her bedroom. She adjusted to riding it up and down the stairs like a champ.

I don’t know what it’s like to have once been able to paint still lifes with watercolor, and now to be somehow confined to doing these abstract renditions. There is still an artist inside of her, and I’m so happy she can express it at all. Her world has gradually gotten smaller as she has gotten confused by new things. She doesn’t read much because I think she loses her place. But she listens to the radio, she watches her British comedies, and most of all she always asks about how others are doing. She appreciates. She is thankful always. Always.