The Color People.
By Elizabeth Thompson
“I need help with these darn ties,” and I jumped up a little too quickly and knocked into both her and my four-year-old, causing her to color outside the lines and my mother to make a face in pain.
“That’s okay Momma, I still wike my picher…should I color Ariel’s hair people or pink?”
I don’t bother to correct her by reminding her that it’s purple, not people, because…well…she’s my youngest…and I’m so going to miss that baby-talk…and…oh…she just sounds too darn cute!
“Whoopsie…sorry, Hubba-Bubba,” (a nickname I’d given her since her oldest sister taught her how to blow the perfect bubble) and I nodded my head frantically and couldn’t stop the image of Dustin Hoffman from coming to mind as I added in total Rainman fashion, “Pink…definitely…pink…definitely!”
I slipped through the curtains and helped my mother tie a double knot and complemented her hospital gown, “Not bad, for something that’s missing half its ass!”
And my mother quickly responded, “I wish my ass was missing half its ass,” and we laughed together for the first time…in a very long time.
She climbed onto the bed and I closed the curtain behind me, slowly, because it was as if I were no longer watching my mother. I saw my grandmother crumpled with age -- spending the last few years of her life in and out of one hospital bed after another – and feeling as if someone had just dumped years off of an hour glass and I wondered if this is how my mother felt watching her mother grow old.
Her surgery went well, but, due to the advanced stages of arthritis and a deformity resulting from an injury when I was (I think) three, there was extensive damage to her shoulder, rotary cuff, shoulder blade and collarbone.
It is my earliest memory of her – hunched over at the top of a flight of stairs with a bucket of soapy water one minute, forward rolling down and landing head first against the radiator in the hallway the next – and one that I can still hear and see in color.
She was never the same physically after that, treated over the years with everything from lying on a bed, weighted down and being pulled in every direction, to my grandmother cooking up crazy concoctions on her stove and going to an acupuncturist when it wasn’t considered to be, so cool.
She wasn’t looking for a cure…just a way to be able to live with the pain.
My mother turned sixty-three in July and is still working a full-time job, but, it’s becoming painfully clear that she was slowly losing the use of her left arm and could barely walk.
Today, we were praying for a cure.
“I fixed what I could, but she is suffering from a degenerative disease and will never truly be pain-free.”
My father had a similar procedure done in December and it nearly broke him. And as I watched him joke with and ask the surgeon, “How come she gets to wear a cool sling?” I whispered into my sister-in-law’s ear, “I don’t think he gets it yet,” that she wasn’t going to get any better, and she agreed.
And as he hobbled down the hallway, calling out to all of his ex-co-workers and laughing with old hospital friends, I wondered if he would ever see my mother…or himself for that matter…as growing old.
It’s not such a terrible term, really – growing old – because, as I face another year deeper into my forties, I would much rather like to believe that one doesn’t “get” old, like on the Home Shopping Network or eBay, but that we age and mature like fine wine…slowly…delicately and with as much grace as possible, albeit being crushed under by a pair of stinky and often times very hairy feet called…life.
Aging gracefully just doesn’t happen for a lot of people.
Alas, as one of the bumper stickers in the parking lot plainly read, “Old is not for sissies!” It can be rough, insensitive, and agonizingly slow and can be a very lonesome time for way too many folks. And mine, in particular, are fighting it by pledging allegiance to whatever pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant that their physicians prescribe.
So, what’s bugging me?
Quite frankly it’s wondering if, after all these years of watching what we eat, drink and just about everything else we’re told to ensure a happy and healthy lifestyle, that this is the best that one can look forward to?
My parents have made life so much easier for me, not to mention for their grandchildren, and I can’t do a gosh-darn-thing to help stop, what…time?
The kids had a half day at school the next day and I thought I’d stop by the market to pick up some flowers…maybe some box of chocolates…oh, and stop by the card store and pick up that cute pillow I saw about women and wearing the color purple…before going back up to help out my folks.
The nurse cleaned up a bit and called us back into my mother’s hospital room and, as I switched a sleepy and much heavier four-year-old to a more comfortable position, I looked over my other shoulder, winked at my mother and whispered, “Hey…your lips aren’t as blue as before…they look more like a pretty shade of…you know….purple,” to which my daughter wakes up and quietly adds, “No Momma, I think you mean Mama looks more like…people!”
My mother’s eyes didn’t open right away, but she smiled weakly, and I was thankful (for once) that the babysitting fell through and that I had brought my little one along. And, as I sat down with her on the chair next to my mother’s bed and suggested, “Let’s color a picture for Mama,” I didn’t bother to try and wipe my tears as I thought how fitting is was that my daughter’s name just happened to be, Hope.
And, naturally, we used a lot of…“people.”
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.