What Today Brings
“Life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion.” – Leo F. Buscagula
I have gotten an earful lately from someone who heard from someone that somebody said they saw a picture I posted of my aunt at the Christmas parade, “Oh no, I can’t believe that is her!” they are said to have exclaimed. “I had no idea!” another supposedly chimed in. “She doesn’t even look like herself!” a third one allegedly crowed. To them I say, she is 85 years old and has had Alzheimer’s for 10 years. I would also say you would not be so surprised had you stopped by for a visit.
There is much to be said about caring for an aging relative. I helped take care of both grandmothers and now my aunt. All three women lived extraordinary, envied lives and for some reason suffered long drawn out illness’s in the end. They were also all three stunning to look at and as each approached their nineties, people seemed repelled by the inevitable loss of youthful beauty. It seems the more beautiful you were, the more horrifying the loss of beauty is. What I also find striking is that in all three cases, friends who swirled around them as healthy, vibrant women quickly fell away when they reached their last chapter.
There is no doubt that Alzheimer’s is one of the cruelest fates, but a massive stroke, bedridden and completely dependent for six years, is no walk in the park either. I know that no matter the circumstance, the aging women in my life still enjoyed lavender lotion, soft hand and foot rubs, drives in the country and soothing music. Life is not over until it’s over.
As I write this, my aunt sits next to me looking rather chic in a black turtleneck and khaki pants, one leg crossed over the other, she kicks them like she used to. Her hair is thick and gray, pulled back in a shiny hairclip. Her caregiver, Tammy, holds her hand and showers her with hugs and back scratches. There is a fire and a brightly lit Christmas tree a few feet away. The Hallmark Channel is on, which is a favorite of those who work here. Each sweet, simple love story takes place in a picture book setting where every house is decorated and the snow never looks cold, just fluffy. In the end you can rest assured the girl will get the guy.
Aunt Toss and Tammy are having a conversation filled with inflections and laughs, questions and answers. Most words are jumbled and rambling but some pop up clear as day, “Yes, I do want that!” or “I love you.” At breakfast this morning another girl who used to work with her came to visit and they carried on the same way. Chatting in nonsensical, loving dialogue she asked, “You ready to go out on the town again? You want me to come get you Friday night?” To which my aunt smiled and corrected her, “Saturday.”
One thing I can say about my beautiful Aunt Toss is that she has forever loved many things with a passion. I used to watch her marvel at the texture of a fabric or stone, “Don’t you just love the feel of it?!” She had that same sense of wonderment watching the Christmas parade. As the Kentucky State band powered down Main Street a few yards away, cymbals and giant drums in the air, cozy and warm in the front seat with a hot chocolate in hand, she held her head up and sang, “Merry, Merry, Merry.” It was a good day and I took a picture of it.
There will be no going into hiding just because things are not as glamorous as they once were. We continue to squeeze out every bit of joy we can. In some moments, life is a paradise.