"An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy," Old Spanish proverb.
If you are reading or being told of this column, you also at some point had a mother, or if you are blessed, you are a mother, grandmother or other in the raising of children and shaping of lives in your family, with each trying to make sense and make their way on this planet of ours.
Each day, 10,000 American Baby Boomers reach the age of 65. By 2050 the number of living Americans at or above that anniversary milestone is projected to reach 82-million. Only the Millennial generation at that point are expected to out-number seniors, in a nation of then projected population of roughly 400-million. Georgia remains a top tax and location friendly state for retirees, as ranked by Kiplinger in 2017, and our capital city of Atlanta is the nation's #1 rapidly aging city (in terms of core population).
Many dual income families can't provide the round the clock support/supervision or health care their senior family members may need, so increasing numbers of seniors may also be living in medical and assisted living retirement communities. An industry leader, researcher and well regarded practitioner in this space is Wesley Woods, founded by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, now houses and cares for more than 1800 seniors (1100 women) of all denominations in 10 locations across north Georgia (Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blairsville, Newnan and Roswell).
A core vision of Wesley Woods is to establish a world where everyone can age with grace dignity and purpose.
While that purpose is noble and good, making it reality is no easy task. Wesley Woods promotes independent living with most residents in their own apartments, married couples sharing an apartment, or receiving assistance and home care via federal subsidy or HUD housing assistance.
As Mother's Day nears, I am again reminded that our family has been fortunate, and my folks want for very little. They have two homes, and more than two of most everything...what Mom wants more of is time. We can't control or quite deliver that, but we can give her more of our time. Dad reminded me of this recently, and that with the early loss of our brother just over five years ago, I am her oldest and now only son. I have tried to make the visits more frequent, the texts near daily and deliver more frequent communication throughout the week.
I am my father's son however, and being emotive, on the phone or in person really isn't in my DNA. I'm working on it. Phone calls, in my mind, are more transactional in nature. Information is exchanged, meetings and appointments are confirmed. Mom wants to know 'how I am feeling'...or how 'life is going.' She isn't satisfied at all when I just say, "fine."
Having a child with special needs has made me a better parent, and a more patient person, but I'm still struggling with translating that into being a better son.
Our mother who long worked while managing our household now struggles with the most basic of life chores and daily events. Stepping in there is not a problem, it's just not possible every day. Even with three sibling and grandchildren reasonably nearby, assisting in managing two large households is a stretch. Thankfully, we are in a position that Mom and Dad will be able to age in place, and absent drastic changes in health/condition, their lives will be spent as they choose in their own homes...but I am again reminded that is not the case for many if not most families.
Though the flowers will arrive for the coming holiday, and a Sunday supper with favorites is already being planned for delivery, I know in the days and weeks ahead, the greatest gift I can give, or those of you with family in Wesley Woods or another retirement community can give is your voice, your presence and your time. Technology clearly facilitates and assists this for many of us, though many seniors often fear or withdraw from that as well.
I'm clear that watching my mother's capacities and world shrink will always bring on a mix of emotions--anger, frustration, even desire for more time with the Mother of our youth...and yet, the empathy and compassion which do exist in me also need to become stronger muscles which I can more easily and readily flex. We love you Mom, and a happy and blessed Mothers & Others Day to each and all of you.