The Magic of Our Elders

spent the most time together where I was her companion after my father died in 1968. I can remember wonderful experiences including trips to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City where she would dress me up formally and teach me about the elegance of opera. At 8 years old, I felt really special. She loved history and exposed me to many historic places on the East Coast. As I grew into an adult, I chose my own paths which were not always what she wanted for me yet I broke through her heavy grip and created my own life. We had many disagreements but always came back with much respect and love for each other.

Now that my mom is entering early stages of dementia, there are times she is becoming the child and I the parent. I never get mad at her for asking the same questions. She can’t really tell that she has asked them over and over again because I answer them just as gently the first time as I do the 10th time. When she apologizes that she has to ask me something my answer is the same, “Ma, you had to remember a lot for the 5 of us throughout 91 years, now it’s our turn to remember for you.” She smiles and her eyes light up with reassurance that all is okay. Though her memory is decreasing, her voice is still as crisp as when she was 51.

When my grandmother was 90, her body was wearing out and her mind still sharp. Nanny could rarely leave the house so we all came to her. All 5 of us were working in stressful careers, raising families, 2 of us lived in Baltimore and 1 commuted in and out of New York every day. None of that mattered, we all visited Nanny on a regular basis. We all loved sitting with her, hearing old stories and she loved catching up with everything we were doing. When she began to forget things, we would tease her and her comeback was “I was just testing you to make sure YOU remembered!!” Those moments were precious. I distinctly remember looking deeply into my Nan’s eyes to see her pretty chocolate brown eye during one of those visits and I am so grateful because I always have that memory of her eyes smiling back at mine.

I do this now with my mom. She tells me stories of her youth and times with my father. Fortunately, with an iPhone, I use an app called Momento to dictate the story so I don’t forget our history!! She lets me cook meals for her now and that is such a joy because she would always want to cook. Each meal is lovingly devoured and always ending with a dish of ice cream or a sweet. We still love to have tea in the afternoon as we did when I was growing up. We sit together on the side of her bed and I scratch her back before I tuck her in for the night. It’s sweet.

Mom, laughs at herself now that her life has changed as well as I see her anger when she can’t do
things for herself that she did a year ago. What she loves most is having us all close by. Now that our 5 brothers and sisters has changed to 3, my brother, sister and I make it work to give my mom her wish to stay in her home until her last breath. We love giving to her, and getting her out for rides or a visit. My wish is that the younger generation makes time for her the way we did for Nanny. There are too many distractions out there that have people think there is not enough time but there is. Our elders are our history, and still give us wisdom. They want to be valued, they want to be heard and they want to be seen.
There are many seniors out there sitting in nursing homes or at home with no one to share conversation with or no one to hug. We know that will never be the case with our mom just as it was with Nanny. Conversations keep her mind sharp and the stimulation of visits energizes her soul. As I see her age and know her time with us is limited, I know that this is still the same person who shielded me from harm, made me do my homework, clapped for me at graduations and painted my townhouse after I left for work.
I am grateful for each moment with my Mom and blessed by the magic she gives to me every day.

Betsy Cerulo
CEO, AdNet/AccountNet, Inc.