Aging – a son’s lament

My mother and I sat out in the Bentley Retirement Community lounge playing Rummy-O for a good part of the afternoon–and held court. There’s a bit more energy out there and the ‘girls’ that stopped by always marvelled at the complexity of a game we had obviously mastered. It was a good time. But I have to say, even there, mom was half-hearted–not possessed by that slightly-veiled elation she normally has when anticipating and playing a good board-game. No doubt her pain level and her medication levels, and the balances or imbalances of these frightful forces contribute to her melancholy.

And the melancholy seems more than melancholy. When I consider her recent confinement to a wheelchair, her blood maladies, and other things, I know I’d be deeply despondent if not depressed.


Not even a wheel around Russell Drive and an adjoining park perked her up. In fact, she finally told me half way through the tour, that going over the cracks in the sidewalks was hurting her. No Pro Comp suspension system on that chair. So we took to the pavement…smoother, but with traffic hazards…joked about her signalling as she was the one with free hands. We got back safely and convalesced in her room.

Mom napped in her chair. While watching her head fall, I was thinking she’s just very weary of notching off the days. And that’s what it feels like to her right now. And sometimes the chipper Bentleyites, those able to hold on to the "retirement community" dressing (there are more than a few) and who take to the place like it’s an extended camp-out with privileges (gotta love’m for it) are just so much pepper in the wound. Mom said that my dad would never have warmed to the place.

Most of all It pains my mother to be a burden more than it pains her to be in pain. She told me, in one of our snatches of conversation, in her masterful way of euphemistic equivocation, that she was "ready for anything that happened."

At another time, while trying to engage her at an emotional level, I asked again about her youth, the farm, and dad–open ended questions were left unopened. I also asked her about her miscarriage, something I’ve always wanted to ask her about, since I was the subsequent one. Had she picked out a name? No, she didn’t think so. How did she feel, what was it like? "It was a bit disappointing," she owned. She didn’t have the emotional strength to revisit–and that for me was the most disheartening thing.

She has cycles of better and worse, wakefulness and flat-lining, but the latter is showing up more than the former. For those of us with parents in this place, well, it’s just hard to watch a mother or father fade. Where along the last-lap of aging does mercy lie? I watch for it, but it escapes my view.

For us in the press of mid-life, mercy lies in hopefully having a few more laps left. The thing about visiting the Bentley is that every time, after initialling the ledger, and walking out the doors, I felt much younger—a feeling that lasted a few hours. Oh, but it was even more than a few hours the day I parked mom’s wheelchair at the dinner table and while walking away overheard one of the ladies mom shares a dinner table with say, "What a nice young man." My 50-plus-years are hanging on to that little nugget.


  1. beautiful, and so sad…mercy in the last lap lies in your visit, your sitting with her, being with her, in the gift of humour and love and attentiveness you bring.

  2. Dear Stephen,

    Watching my parents fade away in their autumn years, dad is 90 and mom is 87, is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. They were always so strong, physically and emotionally. Now life for them is a totally different thing.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

  3. Wow Stephen, this is wonderful, I can really hear your heart for your mum. And you are so descriptive – a tangible talent to use for the Lord as life touches you.

    Meredith }

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