Eighty-six. I can’t remember how old I was when I could finally count that high.
When I was in my 20’s, I remember thinking “I’m not going to live past 50.” I wonder if this is a common thought when you’re young? Fifty (50) seemed so old and now it’s a number I look “back” to.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live the life of an 86 year old so that when we reached that age we would know what it was really like? Would it make any difference in how we live today?
My mother recently turned 86 and I think she’s doing great. Ask her how she’s doing though and her response lately seems to be “I’ll be leaving soon.” When we ask where she’s going (she’s not senile) she just looks at us and points her finger up to the sky. Death is on her mind a lot.
She uses oxygen at night to help her breathe and during the day she paces herself so she doesn’t get out of breath. Although she smoked until she was in her early 50’s, her advice is “don’t ever start” but it was never a habit that I wanted to embrace so there were no problems there. She struggles with some emphysema although it hasn’t much impeded what she does or where she goes.
With her family by her side, my mother cooked her own birthday dinner and enjoyed watching us eat, talk and simply hang out. Her eyes gleam when we go back for seconds of the food that she lovingly prepares — even though her sense of smell is no longer there.
My mother is a senior companion which means she gets paid for visiting other seniors in her building — seniors who are lonely and need someone to talk with them to help them get through the day. But my mother has her own help who comes in to clean and cook as sometimes she is not able to do things on her own because of the emphysema. She has always done what she can do though.
Her advice to me a long time ago was: Keep your body moving or it will stiffen up on you.
My siblings and I are able to joke with her about death “I’ll take this piece when you’re gone — shall we write it up on a piece of paper for you to sign?” All jokes aside though, this is one death that will sting forever.
Growing up I never appreciated the sacrifice my mother made for me but instead my focus was on all the rules I had to follow, never realizing those rules kept me alive while growing up in the inner city of Chicago.
Eighty-six. I hope I’m like my Mama when I get to be eighty-six.