This is a guest post by Cindy Fletcher, my eldest sister.
Our Mom is strong, independent and feisty. She is the quintessential Italian woman. Food and cooking are her currencies. She has no greater gift to give, she believes, but we know better. She is smart and loves all kinds of music, and at 87, almost 88 years old, is not afraid or put off by someone because of their religion, color or sexual preferences. If our Mom likes you it’s because you’re genuine She doesn’t care one bit about anything else. If you are a phony you will not earn her respect no matter how you try. If you are kind and you show her respect, she will bake you cookies. If that gives you a giggle, it means you haven’t yet tasted my Mom’s cookies. They are to die for.
When our Dad passed away, Mom gave up her car. She never liked driving anyway, always thought that walking was better for us, and she was right. When she moved to Vero Beach 15 years ago, you could catch her trotting down the sidewalk on the way to her dentist, to her twice weekly aerobic class, and her senior dancing days with the old big band members, and wherever else she wanted to go. People her age would whine about having to give up their cars, and she just never got that. There are special, inexpensive buses for Seniors, there are taxis, and now we even have uber. Cars are expensive to purchase, to insure and to maintain. The older I get, the more I am looking forward to getting rid of that burden we call the automobile. Anyway, I digress.
About three years ago she had hip replacement surgery. We all helped with the rehab and she eventually started to walk better and even dance a little but she has never been the same. Over the past two and a half years we all noticed that walking would take a toll on her, but we thought it was because of her hip. It was not. It was her heart. Her sweet, hardworking, heart.
Without going into all the details, Mom wouldn’t like that, I want to say this. If not for the excellent care she has received from Indian River Medical Center, her doctors and all of us, we don’t know if we would still have her. My sister Serina took Mom into her home and gently nursed her back to health. Valentina then took over the lions share, and she has been making sure Mom has nutritious meals which are also good for her heart, gentle massage to get the circulation going in her legs, and exercise three times a week to bring back Mom’s strength and endurance. And lest we forget, excellent advice from Aloha Home Care’s Vicki Suplizio.
I don’t know what people do when they don’t have all of this love and attention that my Mom has. Please remember that some people don’t have family as a support system. If you see a neighbor or you have a friend who is experiencing health issues, don’t just ask if they need help. Often they will be too proud to say so. Just show up and bring food in plastic containers that can be easily carried in the basket of their walker. If they don’t have a basket on their walker, well perhaps you can purchase one for them. Remember, pride is a big thing for the men and women of my Mom’s generation, so be careful to present things as a special gift, not as a sign of their weakness. Ask them if they would like for you to help them pick up the house a little, and perhaps do some laundry. All of the things they took for granted they could do will be difficult if they have been ill.
You never know when a loved one won’t be here any longer. I think that is something that really hit home in late 2015 and all through 2016. Make the time to let the people you love know they are special to you. Even if it’s just a phone call every week.
Cindy Fletcher for Valentina Boonstra, Aggie Gauthier, Michael Gauthier and Serina and Tom Halverson.