It's a common occurrence. You meet a new neighbor by the apartment mailboxes. Just as you're chatting, another neighbor comes by and you want to introduce them. BLANK. You can't remember either one's name! You tell the plumber you'll leave the key at your neighbor's house because you have to be at work. The sink has been blocked all week and you're having guests over for the weekend. As you leave the house you're busy planning your workday and how you'll avoid the traffic jams they've just announced over the radio.
In the simplest ways, my grandmother mended my soul. She was the smartest person I knew. She read at least one book a day. I sat and read with her. She loved mysteries. So did I. She could answer all of the questions on Jeopardy. I thought that an old woman could know everything. She looked like an old lady. Old ladies knew how to dress then. They had special black, old lady, lace-up shoes, not the running shoes grandmas favor today. Sometimes she let me tie her shoes. In this way, I helped her. She had beautiful handwriting. Thirty years after her death I can remember her shopping list, composed in her ornate curves: beets, mixed vegetables, cottage cheese.
Dear Ma, One of the questions on my mind these days is the body and aging. I'd love your input. Does one accept the natural changes of the body? Does one fight them, go with the flow or find a way to stay firm and fit and invest the necessary time and effort? I was thinking about your running the New York marathon and the kids telling their friends with great pride, "My grandmother ran the marathon." I loved talking to you after you trained. You sound energized and full of the spirit of the thing. You told me once that it had helped you build stamina and discipline for other challenges of life, and that the marathon people stressed that what was important was doing one's personal best.
Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I'm seventy-eight years old, and lost my husband a half-year ago. He was my second husband, but we had been married twenty-five years. In many ways, it was more difficult than the death of my first husband, because then I had a goal. I had to raise my children. Now, I just feel empty. I find it hard to pull myself together, just to get dressed and go out. Nothing seems worth the effort. What difference does it make? We're all going to die anyway. My children encourage me to go back to my volunteer work, reading to the blind. I know it's wrong, but I just don't feel like helping anyone.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor: My mother seems to be at an early stage of Alzheimer's, though the doctor says it is too soon to tell. She used to keep an immaculate home, but now it's often dirty and when I try to hire help, she often cancels them (though the first time I brought someone in, she let her work). There are other ways I have tried to offer to help her, such as making doctor appointments, but she insists she doesn't need help. My father is not much help.
Toby and Michael
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