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Everyday Courage
KN (April 26,1942 / Lincoln, Nebraska)

Everyday Courage

My mother is 89.
She has Alzheimer's.

She lives in an assisted living
retirement lodge.
Her friend is Eleanor.
Mom can't remember Eleanor's name,
but she knows that woman
is her friend.

There are other people
at the home.
All need assistance of one kind
or another.
They stick together.

After breakfast, assisted by an arm of another
or a wheeled walker,
they go out and sit on the front porch
and watch the cars go by.
They don’t' talk much.

At noon they gather outside the dining room
and wait for the lunch bell.
When it rings, they roll in
behind their walkers,
find their tables,
sit and wait
for the help to park their walkers
in the 'garage, '
(the big closet next to the dining room) .

After lunch they assemble in the living room
and wait for the van to come around to the front.
Then they all pull themselves up onto their feet
and shuffle out to the portecochere
where the help
take their walkers
and lift them up into the van.

They love the van ride.
The driver says he goes
to the same places every day
and his passengers are just as thrilled
seeing the sights the tenth time
as they were the
first.
Every trip is to someplace new.

When we told Mom
in the morning
we were coming up
in the evening
to take her out to dinner,
she remembered only
that she was going out.
So she put on her best outfit
and then went downstairs to wait all day
(until the staff distracted her) .
We have learned not to tell her we are coming.
And she is always surprised and thrilled.

As she struggles to get into
or out of the car,
she makes jokes about herself.
She can't make much sense
out of most of the conversation at
our Christmas dinner.
She gets frustrated that she can't remember which
grandchildren belong to which of her children.
(Some grandchildren she no longer remembers at all.)
She wishes she could still drive,
but she knows she couldn't
find her way
home.

She still smiles a great smile when she sees us.

She marvels at the shape of clouds
with childlike delight.
Her eyes water up when we see a western sky
melt into a sunset masterpiece or
when we turn down a road lined with
autumn colors.

She still exclaims in wonder when we
stroll through the rose garden and she smells
the different fragrances of orange and peach
and scarlet, and white, and soft yellow cream.
She still looks to each day to accomplish something,
rises up every morning and gets the day underway.

She never stops seeing beauty in the world.
And she never stops loving us
and trusting us to take care of her.

She knows she is in a waiting place.
And she knows what she is waiting for.

My mother sings a song of courage every day.
I hope I can sing the same song
when my turn comes.

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