I had lunch with Mom today at her retirement home. We sat with Yvonne and Inez and ate chicken tenders and french fries. Inez shared a couple stories about growing up on a farm and the pet crow she had and the hay lift she drove. Yvonne talked about the time she spilled 16 pounds of honey on the steps of her house and how difficult it was to clean up that mess. Mom shared stories about how special it was to go to Detroit to see plays and to eat in restaurants when dating. Though the core of these stories seems disparate, they were at least tangentially connected. I asked lots of questions to egg them on. They were eager to talk.
We wished each other Happy New Year when lunch was over. As I was pushing my mother back to her “apartment,” she asked me to stop next to each resident she passed. “Have a Happy New Year,” she said to each one. “May 2014 be a year of good health.” Then she grabbed their hands and squeezed them.
“May you have a healthy New Year too, Pearl,” each responded squeezing her hand back, sometimes not letting go when it was time to continue back to her space. One woman’s eyes started getting moist, silently staring into my mother’s eyes. Another resident spontaneously smiled extremely broadly displaying that she barely had any teeth. We must have greeted a dozen or more residents in this slow, meaningful way. All responded to her wishes with grace, deep sincerity, and physical touching.
My mother is making community. I don’t think she ever had so extensive a one. When we made it back to her apartment, my mother looked at me through her Phyllis Diller glasses and wished me too a happy, healthy New Year. With grace, sincerity, and a huge warm hug, I wished her the same.