09:09:12 pm on
Friday 07 May 2021

Her Climb
AJ Robinson

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what's waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

Anyone familiar with modern pop music will recognize those words from the Miley Cyrus song, “The Climb.” Today, the lyric took on new meaning for me. Over the weekend I went to visit my mother in Naples, Florida.

She’s back in Aston Gardens, the ACLF, where she resides. Yes, she’s still dealing with her recovery from pneumonia and renal failure. Her fight has not ended.

Still, she looked old.

I know I made the same statement following her car accident in 2019, but now she is truly old, which I think is okay. After all, at ninety-five-plus years, she’s entitled. Yet, there was more to it this time.

Although her mind is still sharp and she has some of the old fire back in her, there’s a sadness to her, a weakness I’ve never seen and a feeling of great fatigue. Not the weariness one gets from a long hike or workout at the gym and not the tiredness you feel after pulling a series of all-nighters to get a job done. No, my Mom is tired. I see in her eyes a longing to sleep.

Just putting those words on paper brings me down; chokes me up. When I visited mom, I tried to be upbeat. I fixed her glasses because a lens had popped out of the frame. I put it back in.

I helped her tune her television to CNN; even at her age she wants to stay abreast of current events. I helped her put on her sweater, as she is forever cold. Then came more bad news.

Three nurses came in to check on her. She had a bad ulcer on the bottom of her left foot and her legs were swollen and red. Mom was not well.

The head nurse didn’t like how things looked. She called an ambulance to take mom to the hospital. Mom then did something I’ve not seen her do very often in her life: she cried.

Mom is exceptionally strong. Before today I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she cried in my presence. She wept when she heard grandmother, dad’s mom, had passed; they were very close; the news shattered her heart.

Mom choked up at the first Thanksgiving after her second son, Jim, passed. She was sniffling when I walked in on her one day after Steve, my brother and her son, received his cancer diagnosis. The moment I spoke, she shut down the waterworks.

Mom is a very strong woman.

This day, however, she wept openly over and over as she begged them not to take her to hospital. She wanted to stay home, she didn’t believe them when they said she’d be back soon and that’s when I had to step up to the plate, metaphorically speaking.

I took her hand, her withered and weak hand in mine. I told her everything would be all right. I was here and I would make sure her care was full and right.

In a flash, I was transported back across the decades to fifty years ago. I had broken my wrist. I was sobbing and calling for her and she came to me and did just as I was now doing.

Mom gave comfort when I needed it and I felt better. Well, now it was my turn, and somehow, don’t ask me how, I held it together for her. Perhaps the gods on Mount Olympus showed mercy and sent me the strength of Hercules and the wisdom of Athena.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital, sat with her as she waited in the emergency. Then, finally, when my hunger and low blood sugar threatened to make me a patient, I reluctantly left to have dinner with my brother Greg and his family.

Before leaving her side, we exchanged a few words. I don’t have to list here, as any child with a gravely ill and elderly parent knows the words. Then we parted.

Yet, one thing still gives me hope for her future: her inner strength and tenacity. This is a woman who has faced so much, as regular readers know well, who has overcome such adversity, who has battled back from the metaphorical precipice more times than I can count. In fact, back when I called the facility to arrange my visit, the receptionist made a point of telling me how much she admires my mom.

The receptionist said my mom has a strength and resilience unlike anything she’s ever seen in any other person. I thanked her for her kind words, and, no, I did not choke up. Seems a little bit of that strength made it through to me.

That’s when I thought of still more lines from the song,

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No, I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments, that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I gotta be strong

Yes, dear mom has been knocked down plenty of times, both literally and figuratively, but she’s not breaking. Never has, never will. Yes, those are the moment she and the family will remember most.

I know she’ll be strong. I know she’ll keep going. She’s going to continue the climb until the time comes for her to see what’s waiting on the other side of the mountain, when at last she rests in eternal slumber.

For her, there is no question as to what she’ll find. She’ll see her son, my brother Stephen. He’ll be whole and hearty, decked out in one of his Hawaiian shirts, and probably be working on some deal to build a time-share on the eastern shores of the garden of Eden. My dad will be helping grandfather to paint his cottage and then pull the weeds from grandmother’s rose bushes.

Of course, my maternal grandparents will have a little villa in the hills. Cousin Bibi will be stoking up the open pit to cook dinner and her dad will be posing for another statue. Hey, maybe the artist will be Michelangelo.

Most of all, her Nono, her grandfather, will be there to play music so she can dance for him, as she did when she was a little girl. I envy her having such faith. I also wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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