Mom stands at 5’ and weighs around 110 pounds. Her back has rounded and, when she walks nowadays, she embodies the swaggering primate propelled by arms that in old age have grown long for her body. She used to be 5’5” or nearly so, but condensing of the joints, years of hunching, and the sheer gravity of many decades on earth have moved her closer to it.
Her eyes are the color blue Hank Williams sings about, and her solid silver hair strikes one as perpetually in need of a cut. She loves to comb it. It must be calming.
There is an energy to her that recalls her young self. Every now and then she will lengthen her stride and glide ahead of us, reaching that door, that sidewalk, or the end of that block, before us all. Whether she is recalling ‘winning on the playground’ or ‘separating from the pack,’ it is a move designed to reaffirm the joy of being who she is.
We’ve wait listed her for a nursing home. She doesn’t understand it, exactly. But she’ll begin to process the move when I arrive at her condo this month to escort her to a “new home where you’ll meet lots of friends’” She’ll hate me. And she’ll fight us, both me and my sister, on the move.
As she should. We are robbing her of her last freedom: walking outside on the landscaped condominium grounds every day, at least twice and perhaps even three times. Mom and Annie go out for a walk across the grass, under the trees, past the Canadian geese decoys. They watch squirrels perch for nuts. Birds flutter between branches. Maybe it lasts only 10 minutes. But it is freedom. It is air and wind and sun and the crisp sensory input from the outside world.
This is important because, as she loses more of her afferent nerves, it’s those little things—the feel of sunshine on skin, the glory of being enveloped in open sky, the rush from breath drawn from fresh November air, the physical challenge of tackling a sight incline—that will still get through to her. Stimulation. Sensation. Cultivation of space and place. Awakening one’s own physicality.
On the other hand, in a home, there will be indoor activities with therapists; weekly Yoga in the den, pet visitation, and (sadly) probably television-watching. In spring there will be an outdoor area with plots of dirt, where she can grow tomatoes. And there will be other people to talk to, no matter how little is said. Sometimes just sitting together may be enough.