Golden Moments: the silver lining of aging.

Reflections on the day Mom died.

Three sets of feet resting on an ottoman.
One of many recent golden moments with my parents.

On Friday, September 27, my eighty-seven-year-old dad, who often has trouble sleeping, got up at 3 AM. In the independent-living apartment he shared with my mom, he took a few steps from the bedroom to the tiny kitchenette to get a bite to eat. He grabbed a pita bread, then took a few more steps to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a scotch.

As he sat on the living room couch enjoying his snack and his “middle-of-the-night-cap,” my mom, eight-six, appeared with her walker at the bedroom doorway.

“Do I hear the tinkling of ice-cubes?” she asked.

“Yes!” Dad answered.

His “yes” would have been enthusiastic and drawn out, both arms and one scotch raised in celebration, his eyebrows raised like a character in a Norman Rockwell painting.

“Does that mean you’d like a shot of bourbon?” he added.

It meant exactly that. So Mom shuffled to the couch while Dad fixed her drink. They sat for about fifteen minutes, holding hands, until Dad broke the silence.

“Whoever said these were the golden years could not have been a day over fifty,” Dad said. “There’s not much golden about getting old.”

There’s not much golden about the “golden years.”

Mom agreed. She would know

Two years ago, she had heart surgery from which she never completely recovered. At times, she seemed to be on the mend, then a UTI or stomach bug or new medication would spiral her back down and we’d wonder if we were going to lose her.

In the past month, though, she gained strength and spirit and seemed to be on a solid rebound. She had asked my sister and I to plan a joint visit for a “girls weekend,” which we hadn’t done in years. I had booked my flight for tomorrow.

Sitting on the couch with his wife of sixty-three years, Dad found the silver lining of another color.

“But, truly,” he said, “this is a Golden Moment.”

Golden Moments are the silver lining of aging.

I’ve enjoyed Golden Moments with my parents, too.

After I graduated from college in 1980, I never returned home to Pittsburgh. Between my relocation to Troy, NY–my husband’s hometown–and my parents’ moves later in life, I’ve lived anywhere from 500 to 3,000 miles away from them.

When I came in town to visit, I usually didn’t make plans to catch up with friends or to sight-see or take side trips. I preferred to spend my precious little time with my long-distance family.

Once, my sister-in-law asked me, “So what are you going to do while you’re out here?” I was dumbfounded. I wanted to say, “Nothing,” because that was the truth. But it seemed so boring. It seemed small compared to the jet-setting lifestyles of some of my siblings. I can’t remember how I answered.

I’m not suggesting that there’s a right or a wrong way to spend time while visiting family. I wish I had been better about keeping in touch with friends. But I have no regrets about the Golden Moments with my parents. Especially now.

My golden moments give me no regrets.

In their living room at the independent living facility, Mom and Dad sat and held hands for another fifteen minutes, enjoying the silence before going back to bed.

Dad would have followed Mom into the bedroom. He would have put her neck pillow in place and raised or lowered the head of the bed to the perfect angle. He’d have arranged another pillow under her ankles so her painful heels didn’t bear any weight. Then he would have tucked Mom’s favorite pink blanket under her chin and she’d be asleep before Dad made it to his side of the bed.

That evening, after an uneventful day, Mom and Dad again sat on the couch, watching the PBS News Hour. Around 7 PM, Mom stood up, pitched forward, and was probably dead before she hit the floor.

My heart aches that Dad witnessed that scene. I grieve for his loss. I grieve for my family and many friends who loved Mom. I grieve for myself and the loss of my best girlfriend.

I lost my best girlfriend.

Tomorrow, I’ll fly down to visit Dad. Instead of a girls weekend, it will be a father-daughter week. Dad and I will sit on the couch, holding hands, sharing a drink, enjoying our Golden Moments. Mom will join us and I’ll feel her hand in mine. I feel it every day. It’s golden.

[If you don’t see the comment box here, click on the title of this post, scroll to the bottom and, Voila! Or, you can click on “Contact” in the menu bar and send me an email. I really do want to hear from you!}

Giving up may help you move forward.

Hydrangea flowers as big as my head
My hydrangeas in a better year.

Giving up gets such an unecessarily bad rap.

I’ve neglected my gardening for most of the summer. I don’t do vegetables, just perennials, with a few annuals in pots. This year, the deer have been voracious, eating things they never touched before. Even my makeshift deer “fencing”–rows of fishing line stretched across the flower beds–have been trampled. So I gave up.

Giving up- this year, the deer won.
Tiny hydrangea blooms left this year after deer devoured all the big blooms.

Giving up on gardening came first.

I became a gardener when I first planted marigolds and petunias in front of our first house over thirty years ago. I was such a novice, I didn’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial. I didn’t know certain flowers needed sun and others needed shade. All I knew about planting flowers was you dig a hole, stick the flowers in it, and water.

When my garden bed became a mass of bright yellow and hot pink, I was hooked.

I don’t know when (or if) I got hooked on writing. What I know is I’ve devoted so much time to it lately, I haven’t had time to miss my gardening.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right? Take away gardening and writing fills the void.

My “writing” includes doing some updates to this website (did you notice?), creating my guided meditation video (free to subscribers; did you receive the link?), “guesting” on a podcast (I’ll let you know when it airs), building my social media platform, and, occasionally, transcribing actual prose.

When I started writing over twenty years ago, I knew nothing. After a long hiatus, when I started writing again in 2016, I knew even less. Well, more accurately, I continually discovered how much there was to learn, so the ratio of what I knew to what I didn’t know increased tenfold. (Here’s an example of one of my first blogs about gardening. Not horrible, but not great, either.)

This past week, although my creative mind has been churning out ideas, the mechanics of writing–for an audience reading a literary or mainstream publication–got the best of me. I gave up.

Giving up on writing came next.

Don’t worry–I’m not going to quit writing. I’m just going to take a day or two to putter among my poor eaten hydrangeas and weathered iris stalks and pachasandra bed overgrown with weeds.

By tomorrow, I’ll be refreshed and ready to dig in to my writing again.

Giving up is just what I need to move forward.

Giving up isn’t always a bad thing. It could be just what you need to move forward.

If you don’t see the comment box here, click on the title of this post, scroll to the bottom and, Voila! Or, you can click on “Contact” on the menu bar and send me an email. I really do want to hear from you!

Meditation: What finally led to my daily practice.

A clay figurine in a strand of ferns.
A shady place to meditate

The first time I tried to meditate, I fell asleep. It was about twenty years ago, when I was still a working mom, and our family was recovering from my son Matthew’s rumble with a brain tumor.

The exact setting escapes me, but I was taking a workshop with about a dozen other people, all of us in work clothes, sitting on hard folding chairs. The setting wasn’t conducive to relaxation, but I was so sleep-deprived, it didn’t take much for me to nod off. Fortunately, I didn’t drool or snore (I don’t think).

I thought falling asleep meant the meditation was effective but unfortunately, you have to stay awake for the full benefit.

read more