“There is always, always, always something to be grateful for!” ~ Nancy L. Owen
I spent the day Christmas shopping with my mother yesterday and we shared a very special gift; time well spent with each other. With a list in hand and side by side, we walked through the stores. This required a great deal of patience at times and there were frequent stops to rest, for both of us. Sometimes something would catch her attention and she would stop on her own then look around confused for a moment. She would smile with relief when she saw me there waiting and we would go on. As we walked, I would point out people, children, things, making up little stories about them and bringing smiles to her face. She stopped at one point and asked me how do I stay so positive when there’s so much going on in my life that is so difficult?
“My mother taught me well,” I answered softly with a twinkling smile, “I learned from her one of the most valuable lessons of my life; how to find my smile and be grateful in even the most trying of times.”
“Really?” she asked, her eyes misting near tears as they’ve been doing more of late. She’s been feeling, in her own words, helpless, hopeless, useless, and lost. Her lips trembled in a small, hopeful smile as she spoke, “Tell me how I did this, please.”
“Yes! Let me tell you about my first lesson in this. I see it as clearly now as if it were just yesterday, though we both know it was more than half a century ago.”
I took her hand and placed it on the cart handle beside mine as we walked to a nearby bench to sit down. We sat facing each other, hands joined and eyes locked with love as I spoke of this tender and powerful memory.
“I was very young; three, maybe four years old. I can see quite clearly our walking out of the house, going down the porch steps and turning right to go up the street. You held my hand gently in your own and kept your steps small so that I could keep up with you. I remember most how I felt, so happy and proud to be the one by your side. There were four others kids after all and you had chosen me this day to go with you to the neighborhood store. As we walked up the hill on the sidewalk then turned right at the corner, you started singing.
“A tisket, a tasket, I found a yellow basket. I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it. A tisket, a tasket…”
It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny with puffy clouds overhead. I saw all this but the center of the beautiful day for me, was you. I felt so loved with my hand in yours. We stopped and you patiently helped me to sing the words to this song, though I don’t remember them all now, then you showed me how to skip along with you as we sang.”
Mom stopped me at this point and began to sing the song, filling in the words I had missed and smiling because she knew them. If anyone passing looked at us funny about what we were doing, we didn’t see them or care.
“What did we do then?” she asked and clenched her hands in mine. I saw a shadow of confusion and concern on her face and I knew it was because she didn’t remember any of this as she asked, “What happened next?”
“Momma, this is my memory, you don’t have to remember it. What’s important here is that I do and that I can share it with you now!”
She relaxed her hands and smiled, nodding her head and beckoning me to go on with my story.
“We went to the store at the end of the block and you bought what you were there for. Then you let me pick out a piece of penny candy. I chose a thin, red licorice whip and nibbled away at it as we started to walk back home. We were soon singing and skipping again, laughing and keeping our hands tight together.
I remember that you stopped as we neared our street and I looked up at you to ask why. I saw tears on your face and your shoulders shook as you tried to keep them silent. The words stuck in my throat and I felt suddenly cold and lost. Then I too started to cry. You looked down at me then knelt beside me and took me into your arms. You were warm and I felt safe and loved again. Wiping the tears from our faces, you smiled. Still keeping an arm around me, you began looking around then picked a dandelion from beside the sidewalk. Smiling bigger now, you twirled it between your fingers and then with a laugh, brought it under my chin and rubbed it there, leaving a smudge of yellow pollen.
“You like butter!” You exclaimed and we laughed.
You looked around again, inhaled deeply then shook your head as if to dispel what had troubled you. Gathering me closer, you tipped my chin up so you could look into my eyes. I knew this was very important and I listened hard.
“I want you to always remember that no matter what happens, no matter how you feel, there will always be something good nearby, sent from God to help you. He inspires and encourages us to go on and will always bring you a smile if you will only stop and look for it. It’s even better if you can share the smile with someone else. Sometimes it may be something so very small, like this flower, but in finding it, you will better see the greater gifts that are there beside you too. I found the flower and it led me to you. You are one of my greatest gifts from God. Remember this, Ginny, if ever you feel frightened or lost, angry or hurt, that God is always there with you and for you. There is always, always, always something to be grateful for!”
You held me, Mom, and the whole world was bright and happy again. I remember your words. I remember that day. I have used this memory many, many times over the years. Maybe that’s why I still remember it so clearly. It always helps me. I took your words to heart and put them to good use. I always look for my smile, no matter what is happening, no matter how I feel. I find it, share it, and go on, just like you taught me to.”
“I did that?” she asked with big tears in her eyes as I nodded my head and then she smiled. “Thank you.”
“No, Mom. I’m thanking you!”
She gave a little laugh even as the tears fell. I held her close, much as she did me that day long ago. When we got up from the bench, we both gave a little hop and a skip and with big smiles, walked on.
Times are hard, as life often is for all of us. I’ve learned many lessons over the years that help me to enjoy the journey despite it all. This is one my mother taught me and I share it now as I walk beside her once again.
Times were very hard back then. Mother did all that she could to care for her five children. My father was a full blown alcoholic and there were terrible battles between my parents. I remember that there had been one just that morning on the day of our walk and that dad had once again, left. There was no need to share this part of my memory with her. She doesn’t need to be reminded of those times. She did comment that it must have been a bad day but we had made it better! Indeed we did!
My mother has always shown great courage and now as she faces Alzheimer’s, she needs to be reminded how very valuable and loved she is. It is my privilege and blessing, to walk now beside her as she once did with me.
Note: There were little corner Mom and Pop grocery stores everywhere when I was a child. Now they are 7 Elevens, Speedways, etc. and not as personal. Penny candy can no longer be found. One can always find a smile however and share it with love.