My Blog

September 12, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Determination

Lady B is back, and more determined than ever.

Elegantly coiffed, beautifully attired, matching jewelry, nails perfectly manicured. Has it been more than a month? She’s been gone six weeks in rehab for her hip surgery at nearby #CreekSide Retirement Community.

Of course, she had expected to be back and walking within the week of her surgery. Every day at meals Lady E, her across-the-hall neighbor, reported on her progress. Lady B was better, but it would be a few more days. Then the days stretched into weeks and then into a month. Calls, cards, visits from those who were able to get across town to see her.

The young physical therapists (and they are always young, and Mom says they are always good-looking) kept her active for two or three hours a day, two times a day, while she was in rehab. The pain was a constant presence, but Lady B was determined. She kept at it.

When she returned, everyone thought she would be walking. She thought so, too, but she is still in her wheel chair. She inches herself down the hall by pulling on the railing or pushing with the heel of her good foot. She tries to turn the large wheels but her hands are small and the wheels are large and hard to turn. Besides, one wouldn’t want to break a fingernail.

Lady E, her neighbor, used to bring her in her wheel chair from their rooms in distant Hall One. I called them “The Team.” But Lady E now has problems of her own. Back problems, perhaps, or some other ailment has made it difficult to get herself down the long hall to the dining room. She doesn’t push the heavy wheel chair with Lady B in it.

Lady B, urged on by her own determination and the expectations of her friends and neighbors, did try walking to the dining room the first day she was back. Overcoming the pain, she eased her way down the hall, moving slowly, holding onto the side rails. She made it halfway to the dining room. Exhaustion overtook her. The staff brought her wheel chair and she returned to her room. Now she walks, but only for the physical therapist and only what is necessary for rehab.

Thinking to encourage her, I asked when she was going to try it again. With some asperity, she told me I sounded like her son. He was encouraging her, too. Perhaps we were being too encouraging. “I’m going to start calling you Harry,” she said. “I’ll walk as soon as I can,” she assured us all.

Like Mom and her physical therapist, I don’t know if Lady B has daily exercises that she is assigned to do. The sheet of “homework” exercises is taped prominently in front of the TV in Mom’s room as I’m sure it is in Lady B’s room. Mom simply ignores the orders. Perhaps Lady B is more determined to do better. She may be practicing daily, even without the physical therapist.

“I’m going to drive my car,” Lady B pronounces. That is her be all and end all. That is her raison d’etre, her reason for being. “Where will you go?” I ask. “It doesn’t matter,” she says. “I just want to drive my car as far as the gas will take me. I think there is still gas in it.”

Her mind is willing, insistent, even, but her body is still weak. She arrives in the dining room seated regally in her wheel chair, pushed by whoever is handy. She has not tried walking down the long hall again. She is still determined, but the days are slipping by and she is still wheel chair bound.

How far can determination take a body that is getting older each day? One hears about miracle come-backs by athletes and soldiers who overcome great physical traumas. But old age is taking its toll. How strong is the mind when the body can no longer respond? But Lady B is determined. She will walk again, and she will drive her car. Count on it!


About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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