We’ve all heard the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s what my mother is doing, in her own inimitable way, as she not only makes do with many limitations that resulted from a stroke she suffered two years ago, but also as she adjusts to spending an extended stay with me.
Together, we moved her into my house last weekend, and in the space of a mere 48 hours, it became clear that I would get a maxim a day from Mom.
Although Mom is capable of sophisticated speech, she does not deliver these words of wisdom verbally. Instead, she makes her statements by means of how she lives and adapts to limitations and to change. Let me share two of Mom’s maxims with you. And allow me to tell their back stories, too.
I’ll begin with the first of them. As we were driving 396 miles from upstate New York to mid-coast Maine, I let Mom know we might not have turkey for Thanksgiving because my oven had not been maintaining an even cooking temperature and seemed unreliable for the long stretch of cooking that a turkey requires. In addition, I thought she would love the idea of supporting local lobstermen and women.
“I never told you this,” Mom surprised me by saying, “but I’m really not that wild about lobster. I always acted like I was, because anyone who ever served it to me seemed to think it was such a treat. But it’s not my favorite dish.”
“Wow!” I told Mom. “You had me fooled. OK then, I’ll figure out something else to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Despite the cooperative tone of my reply, Mom became silent. Ten minutes later, she piped up enthusiastically and firmly, “If you want to have lobster at Thanksgiving, I will be glad to have it, too. After all, it will be a real Maine Thanksgiving!”
“When life gives you lobsters, indulge graciously,” I thought. There was Mom’s first maxim.
Just 24 hours later, she gave me another. After settling her in for a long, lonely day at my house while I would be at work, I forgot to anticipate the fall of darkness by turning a light on in the then sun-drenched room where she was seated.
When I returned home at the close of the business day, there sat Mom, right where I’d left her, patiently waiting for my return in almost total darkness. I say “almost” because Mom was wearing, strapped to her head, a miner’s light that sent an intense beam of light onto the page she was reading – and into my eyes when she lifted her head to look at me.
“When life gives you darkness, strap on a miner’s light,” I thought, recognizing yet another maxim in the making.
I realized Mom’s upbeat adaptability provided me with something more than words of wisdom. It gave me certainty about the origins of my own resiliency.
I gained one more piece of wisdom from all of this: “When life lands your elderly mother on your doorstep, be glad. It is a precious opportunity to learn not only about your parent but about yourself.”