I find myself standing on the bridge between the past and the future, and it is a tender and poignant place to be.
I stand between youth and old age.
At the age of 63, it is of course natural for me to find myself in the middle of life’s journey.
But for me, the juxtaposition of what has been and what is coming is feeling profound right now.
My mother is 89 years old. She is 26 years older than I am.
Mom still lives at home, in the house where she and our Dad raised six kids. She is still there, still in her kitchen, where I learned to make sauce and meatballs. Still sleeping in the bedroom where she and Dad slept from 1962 until 2008 when Dad died.
I go to see her once a week. My siblings go at least once a week, too. Some more often. We are Mom’s supports, her cooks, her money managers, her cheerleaders as she heads on down the path toward her next step.
As my very wise sister put it, “Mom is quietly folding her tent.” She is gently withdrawing from her life, seeing fewer and fewer friends as her memory and her body fade.
But she is happy. Perhaps happier and calmer than at any other time in my life. Mom, once a power woman in control of all around her, has learned to accept help with grace. She has been willing to wear her LifeAlert, to have a home health aide and to welcome one of us every day (although she doesn’t often remember whose turn it is on any given day to have dinner with her.)
Mom is showing me how to exit gracefully, just as Dad did when it was his turn.
I am watching her. I am learning. I am coming to terms with some thoughts of my own about my life going forward toward that “rainbow bridge.” I am so lucky to have a model of how to go with humor and humility.
As I stand on this tender bridge, I look back toward my youngest child. My son Tim turned 27 yesterday. So you can see that I am almost the ‘median’ point between my mother and my son.
I look at him, my sweet, kind boy. I see that life is spread out before him like a banquet. He plans to marry his sweetheart next summer. They are thinking about children, about careers, about their hopes and dreams for a future family.
I see him, and I see his Dad at the same age. I see myself. I see our worries and our joys and I remember what it was like to be young, in love, ready to move into the future with courage and hope.
My Mother often talks to me about those years before she married my Dad. She talks about how happy they were to sit under the trees on Boston Common, planning how many children they’d have. She talks about what it was like to hold his hand as they walked through the city sharing their dreams of a beautiful future.
And I stand on the bridge. I hear her thoughts, and I hear Tim’s. I know that it was my Mom and Dad’s ability to dream and love that lead to my family, and lead to my marriage and then lead to my beautiful boy and his wonderful partner.
I know that Tim and Sweens will marry, have children, face challenges, encounter unexpected joys and find ways to keep recreating their hope. Just as Paul and I have done. Just as my Mom and Dad did for all those years.
And I know that one day it will be me who is facing that final chapter.
I just hope, and pray, that when that time comes my children will look to me as a model of how to move on. I hope that they will think about Grandma, and remark on how like her I am.
And I hope, and I pray, that when that day rolls by, there will be children of theirs who are busy falling in love and planning their next steps and thinking about babies of their own.