As the growing season draws to a close, I am often drawn to thoughts about growth. Growth in the plant kingdom is something I observe every year--I love to plant annual flowers and then revel in their blooming glory all summer long. Growth abounds in the summer, but growth is not an ever outward process--the end of summer comes.
Of course, then comes autumn. Much as I love autumn, I always rue to impending death of the flowers I have enjoyed. Of course, as I garden I observe, and muse, and draw conclusions about life...about living.
Much of my time of late has been taken up in continuing to help my father and step-mother as they age and transition. In many ways, it is like the life cycle I observe in the flowers. (Before anyone takes offense, I am not suggesting that people aging is the same as plants aging, but as in everything nature has much to teach humanity.)
Since my parents live in a retirement village, and are now in sheltered care, transitioning to nursing care, I observe many facets of what it means to age. Frequently, when I am visiting I encounter other elderly people--people I don't know. But I always try to be cheery, to be helpful, to say a kindly word. And it is the reactions that amaze and baffle me.
A few people simply don't/can't hear me, and so my cheery comments fall on "deaf" ears. A few reciprocate--smiling and responding, even if briefly. It is the other portion of responses that always surprise--the people who harrumph, and complain and are downright unpleasant. One day, as I was exiting the elevator, I caught and held the door for an elderly man on a motorized scooter who was entering the elevator. Rather than say "thank you" to me for holding the door, he snarled I CAN DO IT FOR MYSELF. OK, then. So much for being nice.
While that example is somewhat extreme, it is not an isolated example. And what it has made me do is examine my own aging process and the way I respond to people. Of late, I find myself very intentionally cultivating an attitude of being grateful, of expressing thanks.
In every encounter I have at this retirement village, especially with staff, I try to say--THANK YOU. Thank you for the work you do, for the care you give, for the thorough professionalism you display while you are also showing great care and compassion. Maybe my efforts of overdone--but given that I have observed so much ingratitude I feel my verbal affirmation is the least I can do.
As I deliberately try to show gratitude, I am hoping that it is also cultivating in me a growth tendency--as the twig is bent, so the tree's inclined. If the day comes that I am a resident in such a facility, I hope the attitude I display will not be curmudgeonly and grudging.
Maybe by now you are scratching your head and thinking--wasn't she talking about fall flowers. Well, yes I was. The way a flower grows, even as it draws near the end of its season, is greatly influenced by the encounters along the way. I know, I know--the analogy is imperfect. A flower can't decide to water itself to enhance its growth and beauty. But it can make the most use of the water and sunshine it receives.
Where does that take me? What I have determined for myself is that I will cultivate gratitude and thankfulness. I do not want to be the person who pushes away help with a curt--I CAN DO IT FOR MYSELF. I want to be more like a flower that blooms in its time, in response to water and sun. The beauty of that flower remains long after the petals have fallen.