Margaret is a newcomer to the assisted living facility where mom lives. The aides were giving her a tour of the building when I brought mom back from lunch this past Saturday. While mom and another aide proceeded into her room, I was introduced to the smiling little munchkin.
“Tell her how old you are!” prompted aide Heather.
Margaret smiled coyingly while Heather blurted out, “She’s 101!”
“Wow, that’s amazing!” I immediately zoned in on how “young” she appeared for a person of that age.
Margaret was not in a wheel chair. She was walking with a walker. Margaret stood fairly upright. She wore no glasses and heard every word I spoke to her without a single “What did you say?” Margaret carried on a coherent conversation.
I posed a question, “You don’t wear any glasses, Margaret?”
“Oh, I have them, but I don’t like to wear them,” was the answer that followed. (I detected a bit of vanity borne from Margaret’s winking smile.)
Aide Heather already adores Margaret, after just a day of knowing her. Heather explains to Margaret that she sits next to Pauline and that I am Pauline’s daughter.
“Ohhhh!” she brightens. “So, if I have something to tell you, I can tell your mom and then she can tell you what I said.”
“Sure, if mom remembers!” I smiled at Margaret as she told me her memory wasn’t as good as it used to be. Oh Margaret, I think you can be forgiven for that.
We ended our conversation and while I was sitting in mom’s room, I could hear smiling Margaret and the two aides (Heather is now joined by Karen) who carried on a delightful conversation about remembering names. Margaret said she wasn’t good at it and asked both Heather and Karen to repeat their first names. A couple of times. I queried loudly to the aides, “Will there be a test later?”
Margaret was born in 1913, six years before my mom. It was the year that the Post Office began parcel post deliveres; when the National Woman’s Party formed; when New York City’s Grand Central Terminal opened; when the first minimum wage law in the US took effect; when the IRS begins to levy and collect taxes; when Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated the 28th President of the US; when the British House of Commons rejects the woman’s right to vote; when Romania declares war on Bulgaria; when Henry Ford institutes a moving assembly line; when thousands of women demonstrate for Dutch female suffrage. The list goes on, the years go on.
And here we are, 101 years later. To think about what Margaret and Pauline have seen during their lifetime is hard to fathom.
Margaret placed a smile on my heart for this little lady and evoked a bittersweet sigh for mom. Margaret is going to be a bright light at the facility, while mom’s eyesight continues to grow dim. Margaret will see the laughter in Heather’s eyes while mom asks, “Who are you?” as her sight continues to fade. Margaret is going to forget Heather’s name while mom forgets that I’m her daughter. I don’t know much else about Margaret – her last name, her own family history, how she came to sit next to mom at the dinner table. Was she married? Does she have many grandchildren and great grandchildren and perhaps one or two great great grandchildren?
The thoughts running through my head as I left on Saturday were full of wishes. I wish mom could see better. I wish mom could hear better. I wish mom could remember that she lives in Oshkosh, not Milwaukee (where she grew up). I wish mom could feel the happiness that Margaret seems to feel. I know that will not happen until mom finds heaven, but the knowledge doesn’t stop me. I still wish (and pray) for her.
In the meantime, I am grateful for Margaret and the sunshine that seemed to glow across her face. I am grateful that she will be sitting next to mom at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps Margaret can strike up a conversation with mom, be a positive light for her, garner a smile or two from mom. Perhaps they can share stories of growing up during the depression and memories of their families.
Yes, I want to be Margaret when I’m 101.
Smiling, seeing, hearing, joyful and having a hard time remembering names.