Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

A Mother's Day Tribute To A Mother In Her Later Years

May 4, 1998

When a couple grows old together, they have each other. They have their identity and shared memories, tasks to do and goals to strive for. When their lifelong partner dies, the world changes. They change. The widowers and widows start to depend on their adult children and grandchildren to brighten and give meaning to their lives. My mother has been a widow going on 10 years.

My 96-year-old mother lives on her own in Fortuna, California - the same community where my oldest sister lives. My sister and her husband have provided for my mother's needs for many years. They take care of transportation, shopping, medical appointments, holidays and special occasions. I'm sure that is only a small portion of the care they provide.

The rest of the siblings try to do our part, have mother for extended visits, send letters, make phone calls and keep her up to date on the family news. I should say my mother keeps herself up-to-date of the family news. She uses the phone a lot to check on things and keep track of our lives, the grandchildrens' lives and the great-grandchildrens’ lives. She is very personable and very aware despite her 96 years.

My mother, despite macular degeneration of her eyesight and with the help of magnifying glasses, still sews and quilts baby blankets for her newly arrived great-grandchildren. She has made sixtyfour blankets plus one for a great-great-grandchild and others for great-nieces and nephews. This is truly a never-ending project, one that endears her to the grandchildren and the rising generation.

She is not intrusive nor is she demanding. She understands her limits in showing her concern. She is easy to care for. Her love and sacrifice over the years has earned her a special place in our hearts.

Our family has cooperated and communicated well during times of health crisis and other concerns. The obvious day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year responsibility has fallen on my sister. Her attitude is good and she doesn't carry any anger or resentment. I suppose that her role is made easier by my mother's easy-going nature and specialness that she brings to the family members who are close by. It isn't a burden but a blessing.

Mother gave up driving rather reluctantly as she entered her 90s. She keeps in touch with friends and acquaintances over the years. It takes effort and thoughtfulness to keep in touch. Many people from many places count her as a friend. Her health is good enough to enable her to fly to visit her family. She attends her family reunions is and is the oldest person there with a remarkable memory for the past. Others plumb her for information about their parents and grandparents.

The trials of her life are past including the death of a 27-year-old son. In years past she performed heroically as a farmer's wife and a seamstress. She took on responsibility and did the best she could under times of hardship. She was the anchor for our lives. She is the glue that keeps us together.

With such of long life, she has naturally accumulated some wariness about life. She inquires persistently about our health and well-being. She wants to know if there is something she should worry about. She worries when we don't. She is relieved when the news is usually good.

In later life, she has learned to enjoy basketball on TV and keeps up with her favorite teams. She dozes often. She tends to her abundant flowers, her raspberry bushes and to the beauty of her surroundings. She can engage in a good conversation and is up-to-date on current affairs and happenings in the world.

We are lucky. We still have a mother who gives emotional support and encouragement, who listens and cares, who gives freely and has learned to accept help graciously. It is fun to have her around. She is a living treasure.

If she weren't this way, would we be as good to her as we should be? I would hope so.

About one-fourth of the people over 85 need long term care or other forms of assisted living. Aging can produce insidious diseases that rob our parents of their vitality, mobility, judgment and even their personality. They cannot live independently. Our choice is to bring them into our homes or place them in a long-term facility.

This is when love is pure sacrifice - a giving back for the many years of love and concern. When the relationship can no longer be reciprocal, it is still special. Our devotion to our parents is an example to our children and grandchildren for that day when we may be in similar circumstances.

Family contact, visits, telephone calls and remembrances become even more important. There are so many losses associated with aging. An understanding and consoling presence softens the blow. Families will never lose this responsibility.

On this Mother's Day, or on Father's Day next month, let's pay tribute to our long living parents who not only survived into their 80s and 90s but have lived long enough for us to share our ongoing lives. I especially want to pay tribute to a remarkable mother who continues to show us that a mother's love never ceases.

Thanks, Mom for being here this Mother's Day and all the other days too!