Old age is a relative thing. Some might consider me old at 75 (that’s three-quarters of a century, you know), but my mother made it to 97, almost to 98.
At any age, we are what our minds let us be and we do what our bodies allow. My mom still played golf in her 70s. Her art projects were a favorite hobby until she was almost 90, when her hands would no longer hold a paintbrush. She worked hard to stay engaged and socialize with her neighbors in assisted living and later with her roommate and the caregivers in the skilled nursing facility.
Determination and perseverance played a huge role in her life. Coming from a broken home with very little money, my mom graduated from high school at 16 and after waiting a year to meet the requirements, moved to Chicago on her own and entered nursing school.
During World War II, while my dad was in the Army, Mom worked as a civilian nurse in an Army hospital.
For most of the years my brother and I were kids, Mom and Dad farmed. My mother could handle a tractor just as easily as she could whip together the huge noon-time meal for my dad and the field hands.
She endured hip and knee replacements. At the end of 2012, when she was 94, Mom had a tiny stroke and was put on hospice. She didn’t like it when the nurses stopped her blood pressure medicine and the caregivers wouldn’t let her get up and walk, so she willed herself to get better.
In April 2013, I moved my mom from her apartment into assisted living. She became a social butterfly until February 2015 when she fell in the bathroom and fractured her good hip.
We used to consider a hip fracture the end of the road for the elderly. But even with the limitations put on her by the orthopedic surgeon Mom got better and returned to assisted living. A motorized wheelchair kept her independent.
Mom paid attention to every bit of those never-boring 2016 election shenanigans, made her choice in November, and voted. Even though she didn’t watch each game of the Cubs’ march to win the World Series, she kept with the team. Current events and the latest world crisis were always on her mind and made for energetic conversations.
All that contributes to the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my mom--we can find joy every moment of our lives, even during the hard times. I hope to follow Mom’s example as I grow older, taking pleasure in the things I can still do and letting those other things go.
I often said, “Mom’s a trooper.” I’d like that legacy for myself as well.
Pat Stoltey is a local writer of crime fiction. Her fourth novel, a historical mystery titled Wishing Caswell Dead, will be released from Five Star/Cengage in November 2017. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband, Bill, Katie Cat, and Sassy Dog.