For the many of you with an aging parent who requires care, here is an inspirational book. Reeve Lindbergh's style reminds me of her mother's, a soft, gentle use of words that is soothing. She shares the heart-warming, loving, and sad journey of gradually losing a parent.
My Mom used to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's books, and she particularly liked Gift from the Sea, so I felt an instant connection to a story about the author by her daughter. This is the first book that describes my mother's condition from Alzheimer's. Reeve Lindbergh writes of her own mother's decline, not from the same disease but from a series of strokes. The cause is different, the effect was the same. My Mom also lost her speech; there have been “no more words" for the past two years. My mother, after four years in an Alzheimer's facility is still very aware of what is going on around her. She knows all of the family and her dog. She reacts and responds to most questions. Even in her silence, she has a strong presence and a way to display appreciation and happiness by standing tall and smiling widely or displeasure by grimacing, gesturing and shaking her walker.
Reeve Lindbergh does a touching job of conveying the care of her well-known mother. She provides an emotional picture, which is what I have looked for, and not found, from other authors. Reeve describes the fact that what we may need most from our aging parents is the validation we felt we never received when we were younger. She does not sound, however, like a whining child who has forgotten to grow up; she simply mentions the feeling as a reality. Too often books on aging parents have an underlying and dominant self-serving sentiment, when what I want to hear is some uplifting inspiration for the family with a sympathetic understanding of the suffering. Reeve does that for me.
She is describing my Mom when she says, “Her gaze is direct, but I don't know what she's looking at. What are you looking at Mother. What do you see (81-82)?" and again when she says, “Her previous body-shyness has melted away, as she is touched over and over by careful, caring hand all day long. . . She has finally let herself go now, giving herself up with no comment at all, falling lightly as feathers and softly as snow into our waiting hands (80). "
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is part of my Mom's generation. I see the similar concerns of being proper and worrying about what others might think. The differences between these women have melted as the ravages of aging create a similarity. I find some comfort in that.
Reeve Lindbergh mentions a dream she had in which the mother she remembered came to her and said about this new frail, silent mother, “You just have to take care of her. "
That is what we need to do for our aging parents. While that might mean a different approach for each of us, it helps explain my current role. Thank you, Reeve Lindbergh, for reminding me that my job for my mother is simply “to care of her. "
This is Practical Spirituality. This is what we do to help the ones we love.
Cheryl A. Chatfield, Ph. D. is a writer and teacher. Her small, nonprofit organization, The Nottingham Institute, promotes materials for everyday spirituality for those who don't find answers in organized religions. Two of her books include Do It Yourself Guide To Spirituality: Seven Simple Steps and The Lost Principles, a novel. Visit http://nottinstitute.org to download these books and/or to sign up for a free monthly Practical Spirituality Newsletter.