Whoever the benevolent person was who dubbed our senior years the Golden Years must have been decades from reaching those years for themselves. On the downhill slippery slope of attaining those years myself, I just don't see that golden glow ahead of me, and it is very frustrating.
My mother, Lola Tool, who will be 89 in nine days, was an active and independent individual until she fell and broke her hip at her home near Topaz Lake on Dec. 5. She loved her home, always keeping it immaculate, nothing ever out of place. She would get on the Mono County public transportation every Wednesday and make an errand run, always telling me later just how wonderful Mike the driver was to her and how he had gone out of his way to help her. When I would take her grocery shopping I would lose her in the store in a matter of seconds because she was on a shopping mission.
Last summer, she loved going out on the lake in our boat - always one of the first on the boat ramp, ready to hop in for a ride. All I had to do was jingle the keys to the Expedition while saying "Walker Burger," a popular hamburger stand, and I would have thought a cyclone had just passed me as she flew out the door and was seated in the vehicle before I could think twice. She kept her yard as she kept her house. She loved to garden and her yard was always a brilliant array of color from late spring to fall with her roses, pansies, snapdragons and petunias, all there to give enjoyment to everyone.
As I stood in her home on Tuesday, watering her house plants and picking up a few necessities she needed, I wondered how I was ever going to be able to return her to all these things she loves most. After all, she broke her hip, not her mind. As I looked at Topaz Lake's rising water level, now kissing the furthest edges of the boat ramp, the boat sitting in her carport and the flower gardens sitting barren from winter's chilling cold, I wondered how much would be possible to give back to her. Somehow, for her sake, it just has to happen. Mom does not have the mindset for assisted living. That is not an option.
I found myself thinking back to the late 1960s and remembering my step great-grandmother still living in her two-story Victorian home in Oakland and ruling over the family like a true matriarch. I was only about six when I met her for the first time but I do remember her disapproval of my stepfather's marriage to my mother because she didn't believe in divorce. I remember how she slammed her cane on the floor of her upstairs apartment when Daddy reminded her that she had been married three times, to which her answer was, "Yes by God, but I buried them all!"
I remember her daughter, Eda, a full-time caregiver who lived in the downstairs half of the house, and how Eda would scramble to Grandma's beck and call when she rapped her cane sharply on the floor. Grandma died in her sleep, in her own bed on Christmas Eve, shortly after her 100th birthday. That is how it should be.
I also thought of how my mother's mother had to be placed in a rest home in the mid-70s because my mother and her sister, Bonnie, were both still working and couldn't give Grandma full-time care. I remember how the two sisters, ridden with guilt for not being able to take care of her at home, would make a nightly pilgrimage to visit with Grandma. Grandma had Alzheimer's, long before it had that name, and died at the rest home, where she had been for almost 10 years, at the age of 93.
Thinking of these two diverse situations gave me the probable answer. I know my mother, I know what she is going to do and I know I have to find a way to make it all happen.
This morning, Deb Boulet, owner of Reflections Beauty Salon in TRE, is going to pick my mother up and take her to the salon for a morning of pampering, including a pedicure from Patty Feltch. Deb and Patty have always gone this extra mile for my mother and this will be a special treat for her. I will then go get Mom and take her over to her house, something she has not been able to do since she fell. We are going to see how she does and how she gets around in her home. She still has six weeks of intensive physical therapy, twice a week, to go through here in Minden before she can even think of going home permanently.
I can bet you one thing: My mom is a stubborn Swede and a Swede is 10 times more determined than any bull-headed German or Englishman you would ever hope to meet, a fact you can count on. She will make it, that's for sure, and by summer, I'll be jingling the keys, albeit for the boat or Walker Burger, and she will keep on keepin' on enjoying her home in Topaz.
-- Jonni Hill can be reached at JHILL47@aol.com.