My mother likes planning trips for us on Sundays. Even with two college-going daughters and a son who's getting ready for middle school, she's determined to continue and do her part for our "moral education." Our day trips aren't nice little jaunts to the Houston zoo or NASA's space museum.
One week, it was visiting a refugee family; another it was helping out at a food bank distribution.
Last Sunday, she'd arranged for us to visit a women in a senior living community; both were Pakistani, like us, which my mother obviously considered enough common ground. When we got to the community, there were some things I noticed that really lifted my heart.
For one, everyone was smiling and there were seniors out in the halls being wheeled or walking with the help of canes; the smiling and laughter was contagious—we approached the room of the lady we'd come to visit with much more positive vibes.
The women were in bed, their quarters separated by a thick curtain. The woman we'd come to visit was evidently outgoing and extroverted; she made efforts to sit up when she saw we'd come to visit and was obviously in the mood to chat. She seemed especially concerned that we all sit down, face her and talk to her, reiterating that it got lonely because there was never anyone around to talk to.
The nurses didn't speak Urdu and the woman had never learned English, so life was a constant run of waiting for visitors, eating meals and watching television. My sister noticed a schedule of events posted for the benefit of the seniors and asked if she ever attended those, but the woman seemed lackluster about the events.
She had come to America with her son and raised him here as a widow, earning money through stitching and altering fabrics. When he married an American-born girl, he moved his mother to the community, but in her eyes, he could do no wrong.
She shone with pride as she talked about him and his fancy job and how he still came to visit. "He realizes it," she emphasized, as if we'd been questioning his motives, "He realizes how much I've done for him."
It made me appreciate how much my own parents are constantly doing for me.
For myself, though, I hope neither of my parents ever have to step foot inside a senior living community except as visitors. Whatever happens, they raised me in a home full of family and love, and I hope they always receive this blessing throughout their lives.
No matter how many events the community holds, however well-intentioned they are––and truly, they make incredible efforts and are doing amazing—I want my parents to know they deserve the best. Whatever else happens, I can't believe this outcome is the best my siblings and I can do for them, especially after everything they've given us and continue to give us.
Another thing that struck me was how much of her life she'd seemed to have forgotten—if she fought with her siblings, what she did when she lived in Pakistan, what her favorite foods were.
We spend so much of our life obsessing and second-checking our every minor life decision and mini-issue. One day, maybe I won't even remember what went on in this part of my life. We talk about memories like they're unbreakable, but in the end, do we choose what memories we keep and which stay with us?