The definition of the word resilience is the ability to be flexible in all kinds of situations; in other words, to be able to weather the various storms of life. My Mom, at 95 years of age, is a wonderful example of resilience. She is a real example to me of how to just allow the world to be whatever it’s going to be and life within it. Why I feel this way is the subject of this article.
My Mom was born in 1927, just a couple years before the Great Depression. Therefore, her parents had to live through the Great Depression. She grew up during a time when what had been for sure, wasn’t any longer. This country had known prosperity for quite a while and then suddenly it all came crashing down. We’ve learned since then to be more careful with investing in the stock market (or many of us have learned this lesson, but not all!). In any case, these were uncertain times that required those that lived through it to be flexible.
In addition, my mom was born just a decade after the Pandemic of 1918 – otherwise known as the Spanish Flu. Millions of people died leaving only the strongest to survive. With no vaccine and only cotton masks, people self-isolated and did their best to wash their hands with little more that they could do. Only those with a relatively strong immune system lived through this time. My Mom’s parents (my grandparents). did and they gave this immunity to my mother.
A third point is that my grandparents were either newly arrived in this country or the first generation here. They were immigrants making their way in a new place, willing to do hard work to survive. My mother’s father was a merchant, making his living from ownership of various businesses that he created – a gas station and then a furniture store. Both were successful enough to support the family at that time.
Thus, my mom had good genes as they say and she gave those genes to me. As time goes on and I get older I reflect on just how much my mom has passed her resilience on to me. I watch how she adapts to changes in her life with relative ease. When my brothers and I graduated from high school and moved on, she started working as a substitute teacher using the degree, she obtained many years before. Eventually, she earned first her teaching certificate and then her masters from an exceptionally fine university – that of John Hopkins in Baltimore. I still get the newsletter and magazine from them as I now receive all my mom’s mail since I’m her guardian at this late stage in her life. I know how difficult it is to workday time and then attend classes in the evening since I earned my graduate degree while working (from the University of Maryland in Technology Management).
It was not easy for me and I am sure it wasn’t easy for her either; but I never heard her speak of it. She just did it in her classic style. That is the way people who were brought up during the depression are; I have no way of knowing for sure, but it just seems that way to me. Those were challenging times and people had to adapt or not make it through. When I was cleaning out her apartment to move her from California to Virginia, her graduation certificate was there. I had never seen it. My mom had just gotten it and then put it away. When I think of all the visits to my home in Baltimore and never once did she say, “I just graduated from Johns Hopkins University with my masters in liberal arts; do you want to see my graduate certificate?” I can assure you that I would have been immensely proud and would have wanted others to know about it. Wait a second, now that I think back, when I did graduate with my graduate certificate I was married, and we were moving from one house to another, and I don’t think I made any kind of special thing about it. At the time, I just completed my coursework and did not even bother with the ceremony. The more I think about it, the more I realize that, I’m very much like my mother.
How else is my mom resilient? Last October, Mom fell in her apartment and the staff called me to come over as she was badly bruised. I went over and took her to the nearby ER. After being in the ER for several hours, the doctors decided to admit Mom to the hospital where she stayed for four days. During this time, I spent the entire day with her watching the nurses and doctors coming in/out of her room with lots of electronic documents for me to sign. Of course, I had no idea what I was signing away. Does anyone these days? The staff points to a line and tells you to sign and you do it. I tried to read what I was signing but the language isn’t really understandable by a normal human being even with all my degrees. Of course, it’s meant to be that way. If you understood what you were signing, you would not do it. Undoubtedly, you are giving away your rights to any compensation if the staff screws up. In any case, after four days of every test known to man except the ones that make sense – like an EKG, Mom said, “I want to go home”. So, I told one of the nurses, “ok, you have one hour to get my mom ready as I’m taking her home”. And they did. At that point, Mom said, “Do not put me in the hospital”. My reply was, “So don’t fall and don’t get sick”.
Months passed and my mother was going downhill. She was not coherent and seemed to sleep a lot. I was preparing for her demise. So, I decided to talk to her soul and I said, “It’s a lot of trouble for me to take care of you, so either be here or leave”. She looked at me and said, “You’re right”. After that she came out of wherever she had been and started getting better day by day. Her soul decided to stay for awhile longer. During this time, I got her a care worker first 3 days a week and then 4 days a week, not so much because she needed that much care, but more to keep her company. Yes, it is an expensive adult play mate, but it did the trick. I visit during the week also, but she really likes having someone around. And on Saturday, I have a guy come over for therapeutic exercise and massage. She likes Robert and thinks he is cute (no, she’s not dead yet). So, whatever he costs, it’s worth it.
We are fortunate to have the means for this type of care. I’m certainly glad that I’ve saved for the eventuality that I’ll need extensive care towards the end of my life. Meanwhile, I exercise as much as I can to stay strong and healthy.
On a final note, Mom continues to surprise me. I called the other evening to check on her with no answer. After three tries I called the staff getting worried asking the night duty person to check on her. When I called back, he told me that my mother had gone to the movie down the hall. Go MOM!