My mother-in-law is visiting for a few months to escape the late snows that are plaguing the Midwest. Her birthday is next week. She is going to be 92, but you’d never guess. Always ready for “an adventure,” she slides in and out of my sedan like butter. I can see arthritis has knarred her knuckles and one knee now bends in, making her walk hobbled. Not quite as fast as last year, she still cuts a path—cane and all. I’m glad she’s here. It’s hard adding another adult to your space, especially a parent. The first week took some adjustments, more to my attitude than my schedule.
In January I committed to coordinating a fundraiser for The Open Door, a women’s prison ministry and re-entry center, where I volunteer. Some days I feel like the sword thrower’s assistant, strapped spread eagle to a colored wheel being spun around. Thunk. Thunk. The knives whizz past my skin and hit the board. I try to smile, but feel like throwing up. In the evening, I stumble down from the stage to sharpen the blades and make my to-do list for tomorrow.
My office is upstairs, and I feel guilty sitting at the computer for hours or making a bazillion phone calls, leaving my guest. Her son’s at work, and I’m a poor excuse for a host, but she beams happy as long as there’s coffee in the pot. She likes to read and alternates this with The Days of Our Lives and doing her “stretches.”
Wednesday, I decided we needed to do something fun. After four quick call backs, we escaped to shop. After ninety minutes tottering the long aisles of JC Penney’s, we hit a bistro for soup and a sandwich. On the way home in the car, I brought up her obvious arthritis and mentioned she never complained. In my shallow mind, musty with fiftyish youth, I figured it didn't bother her since she never mentioned it. Her German, mater-of-fact comment broke the cartoon light bulb hanging above my heart. “No, why complain? No one wants to hear about that anyway, so why bother.”I look at her humor and willingness to wait – to do whatever opportunity presents itself with a smile, and I wonder, if I start practicing now, can I be this gracious to my daughters at 90? We’ll see.