Friday, September 25, 2015

Autumnal Musings

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.


Climenheise said...

Scott Peck (Denial of the Soul) describes the process of aging as one of becoming increasingly dependent on others, until we die in a condition of complete dependency -- which (he says) is the only safe condition in which to enter God's presence. But it is hard to appreciate losing one's independence, even if doing so is ultimately a great gift.

Murr Brewster said...

I've been thinking about this too. Specifically, as I observe my friends dealing with their aged parents, I wonder if I'll remember to not be crabby. To surrender my car keys. To gracefully accept my losses. They're a-comin'.

KGMom said...

Daryl--I do understand that the slow decline that attends our aging years can be difficult. And I understand that causes some people to lash out, to become entirely self-absorbed. I recall a physician (who specialized in geriatric medicine) I once heard speak say--"when people age they do not change their nature; the patina just wears thin." I always loved that explanation--the patina wears thin.
That is part of why I talk about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. I hope when my patina wears thin that what is underneath will be thankfulness.

Murr--since you just had a birthday, no wonder you've been thinking likewise. If you aren't crabby now, I would hope you won't be crabby in your latter years.

NCmountainwoman said...

Our children were surprised and a bit dismayed to find that we have made a down payment and are wait-listed for an all-inclusive retirement facility. The wait list is about five years so it's not as if we are moving tomorrow. And we can defer without losing our place if we aren't ready when a house becomes available. Having the burden of finding care for his mother during her last five years of life, we do not want our children to have those challenges.

I think our children don't want to think of us as aging. But like you, I do hope we can manage to do it graciously.

KGMom said...

NC--we have not yet reserved a space or even thought where we might want to go. But, thankfully, our children are completely on board. Not that they are pushing--they're just aware.

NCmountainwoman said...

I should correct my statement. It's an all-inclusive retirement COMMUNITY, not facility. We would first live in a 3-bedroom house on a large lot.

Ginnie said...

So good to have one of your thoughtful blog entries again. I (at age 82) have made the decision to stay in my house. I've always been very independent and my children know that. There will probably be a time when I will need some sort of help but I hope to be able to do this. I don't have the type of insurance that would cover a retirement home and money is tight so we'll see how it works. I would love to be one of your flowers and just fade away as winter comes on ...

Mauigirl said...

Lovely post about aging and change. I can so relate. Have just returned to the blogging world after a year's absence and am glad to see you still here and blogging.

Mauigirl said...

It's hard. And it's hard for them. Sometimes they're grouchy. Sometimes defensive. But they are human and I always have to remind myself not to become cranky in response.