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The golden years

July 21, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

I am sitting in the hospital at my mother’s bedside listening to her very recognizable breathing pattern.

If one were not familiar with her very non-melodic breathing, you would think she were on her last breath.

My mom just turned 87 and as part of her birthday celebration, she had a trip to the emergency room, which turned into a stay at the hospital.

Although she has a multitude of diagnoses and many due just to the aging process, including heart failure, enlarged heart, valve dysfunction and a stroke, she has defied the odds.

It is like her body, or more so her mind, just says, “Oops, there’s been another bump in the road, but we will just keep moving along.”

Doctors say they are not sure why, and they cannot explain why patients such as my mom continue to outlive the odds, they just do. And so it is, one day at a time, enjoying as much of the normalcy of a routine day as possible.

Through all of these medical conditions, my mother can hold up a conversation, maybe a little bit shorter and a little more softly spoken, with almost anyone. Her mental capabilities have not been affected.

So there is reason why our prized population, our people at the upper end of the age spectrum, remain with us. Because we need them.

We need them to teach us about life because they have lived it. There is so much value in the life of our predecessors.

There is a certain peace, tranquility and most certainly wisdom that is gained as the years increase. My mother certainly conveys this sense of peace.

So as some or many of our senior citizens may question why they really call these upper years the “golden years,” I believe they are deemed golden because we as the “junior citizens” reap “golden” benefits from their knowledge, wisdom and presence.

A relationship with a member of the aging population is like no other. Grandparent programs, the elderly with the young, only makes sense. Opposite ends of the age spectrum can only bring new found or rekindled knowledge to each member of the partnership.

There is something about Grandma to my children and her other grandchildren – her living “area,” her cookies, her candy, her chair.

Although my mother has lost the ability to participate in many of her loves (gardening the most beautiful rock gardens around; cooking those five-course meals for a table of ten, embroidering those beautiful hand towels), she continues to find enjoyment in living.

Even though she can’t bake her wonderful molasses or chocolate chip cookies, store bought cookies from her cookie jar are still the best.

Her mission has just changed to finding the most delicious cookies to fill her cookie jar with.

Grandma’s small, but cozy living area in our home is the place to be for watching “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. There’s just something about watching those nostalgic shows in Grandma’s cozy area with Grandma at the helm in the prime seat next to her television.

When we host any type of family get-together at our home, most of the adults, especially the males, gravitate and congregate in Grandma’s area – nice, tight, secure and cozy.

It is grandma’s area, and it offers love and nostalgia. It is filled with knick-knacks that she received as gifts, and she remembers the giver of each one of them. Her familiar afghans, cookie jars and, of course, family portraits adorn her little apartment area.

Grandma, as do most elderly people, exudes a sense of peace, security and safety in a busy, hectic world. She reminds us the values that matter most. As she has slowed down, she continues to find value in living and still finds enjoyment in life.

She can no longer drink liquids so things must be thickened, including coffee, which of course, was her favorite beverage. Her response to this change, “I will just have to live without it.” She goes with the flow, and her energy is savored for socializing. She doesn’t miss a beat when she talks with people.

My mother is a best friend to me. As she has gotten older, and I the same, I talk with her about many things, and she listens without having to say anything back, and that is a true friend.

We can all learn a lot from our golden aged population, and we should take the time to do just that.

I am going to continue to get to know my mom each day. I am blessed she is here.