The wheelchair is not for now! These were the parting words spoken by my 89 year old mom when I visited her last April in her home in Florida. When travel restrictions for vaccinated people changed, I knew I had to go to see my mom. I hadn’t seen her for 18 months. I actually wrote most of this blog back then but never posted it.
On this day, mom and I were discussing the logistics of her flying and staying in a hotel in New Jersey for my son’s wedding in mid July. While my mom’s mind is razor sharp, her physical body and health continues to decline. Her physical mobility is limited by her lymphedema (swollen legs) and curvature of her spine but she lives independently with the use of various walkers. (Go mom!!) Thinking about mom managing a weekend in a hotel and wedding venue, I suggested we get her a wheelchair to make life easier for everyone. Upon the suggestion of this, mom’s reply was loud and clear, “the wheelchair is not for now.” In hindsight, the idea was probably more to bring ease for her children but not for mom. Her pride is too strong.
Four days with my mom gave me insight to see how she had been coping with a quarantined life with extremely limited contact with people and the outside world. While mom’s social life wasn’t extensive, she had her weekly places to drive to like the library, Walgreens, her hairdresser, the clubhouse for her Canasta games and of course Publix. My brother had been visiting her weekly to bring her groceries but other than that, she remained in her condo for over a year without driving, visiting anyone or going into a store. When I think of her past year, it’s mind boggling how she is still smiling (well, sometimes). I’m not sure if I would have been able to cope with that lifestyle.
While we are in a different phase of COVID now with continuous changing degrees of safety precautions that may or may not be adhered to, my mom’s determination, will to live, perseverance and/or grit that I witnessed exuding from her during my stay has not wavered. These memories of seeing her navigate and live so strongly in a home bound, isolating world will be etched in my mind forever.
The absence of not seeing my mom during COVID was the longest stretch in my whole life. During quarantined life, mom learned how to use an iPad, FaceTime and FB messenger so she could communicate with all of her children. Having her learn new technology was an all around bonus as mom is deaf and even with hearing aids, her hearing can be profoundly limited (although some family members say it is selective!) especially without the ability to read lips and see facial expressions. So during quarantine, we had many video chats which I loved (even if I did just see her forehead) but less face it, technology will never replace human contact. We continue to communicate this way.
The joy of my stay was taking mom outside each day and seeing her interacting with people again. Her face lit up when she said, “hi” to the cashier at CVS. She beamed when the pharmacist greeted her by saying, “Hi Irma, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in over a year.” I think my mom said, “hi” to every person she passed. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit but to me this was Pura Vida-a simple life, a good life!
I’ll be back visiting my mom in two weeks. It will be another great check in but more importantly, mom asked me (several times) to drive her to Macy’s so she has something to wear to her 90th birthday party in February!! I can guarantee you that there will be no wheelchair at this party! Go mom!!