Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ghost of the Future

I try to watch A Christmas Carol every year.  It intrigues me to see the possibilities of transformation that exist within Scrooge just as a result of getting to see the past (through present perpection), present (through extra pereception) and future (through present perception).  Now that Mother has been here over a week, I feel like Scrooge.  I look at her and see the future.  For me.

My prism is not Ghost of the Future, of course.  My prism is what is hereditary versus environmental, using my mantra, Serenity Prayer, as a regulator.  Ed once joked to me that he had read once upon a time a warning to prospective grooms that before you agree to marry a girl, look at her mother, because that is what she will become.  There are even current jokes in the catalogues:  "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all!"  My sister and I have both had a few occasions where we discover some new little eccentricity or physical aberration of ours and say, "Oh, no!  That's just like Mother!"

I know what I want to inherit from my mom.  I want to inherit her sense that there is good in everyone at some level, her generosity, and her sense of humor.  I don't want to inherit tremors, arthritis, hypertension, macular degeneration, blepharospasm, dental problems, and having to use a walker.  The question I consistently have asked myself this week, using the Serenity Prayer, is how much of this is under my control?  Therein lies the necessity of dealing with the thing realistically and honestly, leaving fear at the door.

Everyone probably has ideas of what they want old age to be for them.  Our generation is certainly more mobile and fit and active than prior generations were in later life.  As Ed says, "My dad would not been able to saw and split wood at 64."  True.  And yet, I see myself in Mother and wonder what the next 30 or so years will do to me.  Will my fingers become misshapen enough that I can't transcribe  or play piano or harp anymore?  Will I too have to give up driving and reading and all the other things that make life convenient and fulfilling?  Will my hand start to tremble when I write my name or lift my fork to my mouth?  How long do I have to live fully and completely without having to park in a handicap spot or use a cane or walker, or, God forbid, wheelchair for mobility?  And more importantly, what changes can I make in my life today that would ameliorate or even eradicate these concerns?

We are all living longer lives, which, as Ed always says, is both a gift and a curse.  At a point, I guess, most of us just give up on the anti-aging creams and potions, dismiss physical appearance in a way, and just concentrate on good health, which is the main thing that will see us through our "golden years."  Mother told me ever since I was born, "If you have your health, you have everything."  I think she is seeing now the truth of her philosophy, and playing the cards life has dealt her in the best way she can (much of the time with humor).

Sometimes it is good to see the future.  Sometimes it is scary to see the future.  Of course, I'm not seeing the future at all; I'm just imaging the possibilities.  I've heard that 99% of what we worry about won't come true.  Yet, I have evidence every day now of many more things to worry about, and it's that 1% that troubles me.

Meanwhile, I have Mama here and I am truly enjoying her presence and laughing with her about old age.  We can both only strive to do the best we can.  I think attitude is the most precious tool we have to get us through.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

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