Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where is Home?

Where do you call home?

I was born in  a tiny prairie village. I was raised in another tiny village. For my early years this was my home. I spent my young adult life on the prairies. Recently I returned to Saskatchewan to visit my mother. Especially in the summer, there is a great beauty and feeling of vastness there. I had forgotten how far one can see in the open prairies, the beautiful ever-changing skies and the constantly blowing wind.  I no longer call it home or even have a twinge of nostalgia about it. I love living in southern California. However, I also saw reflected old-fashioned values of kindness, compassion, courage and consideration.

There have been many places that have been home to my mother. Of course, the one I most strongly resonate with is a house that my dad designed and built (with lots of help) in the village of Conquest, Saskatchewan. From there, Mom and Dad moved to Saskatoon to a bungalow which had lots of memories for me. It was there that  I hosted my first large family dinner. I was 22 years old and with not much sense, invited my in-laws for Christmas. My parents, who were vacationing in California, loaned me their home. I cooked for 26 people that Christmas day...two meals dinner and supper.  The first turkey dinner was scheduled for noon. I think I finally served it at 1:30 PM. (I really missed my mother who would have been able to coach me through that ordeal.) Many years later my parents moved to a modest apartment and bought  a travel trailer in Mesa; they spent many years as snow-birds.  their home in Arizona was filled with friends, playing cards and talking about their most recent shuffleboard. games. Their home in Canada was a place the family gathered.  Even after my dad made his transition in 1993, Mom still lived six months in each place. It worked well for her while her friends were still in the trailer park and worked well for me because I could see her more often. Then Mom moved into a senior living apartment. Now she is living in a personal care home.

My mother's room overlooks a beautiful flower and vegetable garden in which she likes to walk and sit. Because people were raiding the garden, the home but a lock on the gates. They gave the code to the residents but my mother's eyesight is rapidly deteriorating so she was concerned that she couldn't see the numbers and letters on the lock. I suggested that she could memorize the placement of the numbers and letters. She did. Almost immediately she had it mastered.  Although one of her faculties is dimming, she used her memory to compensate. She felt great. I am reminded how important freedom and autonomy are to all of us.

In her new home, Mom is surrounded by 29 other seniors and provided for by care givers. She has three meals a day with her new friends. Sometimes they gather for conversation, sometimes they just sit quietly with one another. One morning when I returned to visit Mom she was excited to tell me that the previous night, her care giver, Anna, had danced for them. I didn't know what to imagine. Mom explained that Anna had just recently returned to work after knee and hip surgery. She brought some music with her and danced with joy, first by herself and then with  another resident. She simply was filled with joy of being alive. By dancing by herself, she gave permission to all the residents to fully be themselves. It was a beautiful gift she gave.

Mom was very sad to see me leave because I don't know when I will be able to return. Still she sees me on Skype almost daily. I am glad I got to see her new home, and meet her new friends.  I am very happy to be home, here in southern California where the palm trees remind me I am living my dream now!

Saskatoon in winter