I want to be near an aviary or a wildlife conservation area with lots of red-winged blackbirds, kill deer, egrets and blue birds. Or close to a chicken coop whose antics, claims one friend who lives on a tidal creek, are just as interesting as watching water levels
I want a shower I can enter in a wheelchair and a wheelchair that can
get wet and not rust. I want a stove at wheelchair height, a garden I can plant, weed, water and harvest from a sitting position, a sink at waist level where even if I have lost my mind and cant remember one blessed thing from the past, I can still sit and wash spinach, shell peas and shuck corn.
I want big windows in my room that I can open and close from a remote
position and no curtains so I can see my breath if its cold, even for just a few seconds; feel the coming of spring; and watch portly white clouds billowing like angels, driving rain arriving in sheets, branches illuminated by moonlight, rainbows and all the changing hues of an
excessive sunset and a dizzying sunrise.
I want to be able to hear a train in the middle of the night, run my fingers though a jar of marbles, smell the grass someone else just cut.
I want a user-friendly radio; if not user-friendly then a radio thats always set on the Canadian Broadcasting Network, home to some of the worlds best English-language programming -- world music, mystery stories, news, great voices, quirky interviews and original themes celebrating such things as Canadas Black Fly Day, May 24.
I want peanut butter and coffee for breakfast, basmati rice for lunch, crab cakes and fresh fruit for dinner with occasional cheese omelets, smothered chicken and good pastrami on rye. I want a little Kahlua in my coffee.
I want someone to scoop me up and put me in their car for a drive even
if I say no, I dont want to go, leave me alone.
But this is me right now, sort of old. A healthy (mostly), clear-headed (kind of), rational (sometimes) me. Who knows what Ill be like when Im really, really old.
Maybe my mother and all the other people l just visited at her retirement home in Southfield, Mich. -- people Ive come to know over the past three years -- had the same (or similar) wants. Maybe they too wanted cool sunglasses, accessible gardens, good radio.
But that was before they lost their balance, their strength, their penmanship, their confidence, their house, their car, their past, their ability to string words together in a single sentence.
That was before they lost the memory of their wants.
I do my best when I visit to amuse, to stimulate, to help them recall these desires. I try to make them laugh. At dinner, to break the stifling silence, I tie a cloth napkin around my head and stick a fork in the band. The woman with big glasses who takes big strides and
carries a pocketbook with nothing inside laughs.
A few will talk to me but not many and not for long. Its safer that way, I suppose. Frequently, my mother will start a sentence, forget what she wants to say, give a good-natured shrug. And thats with me. No wonder she doesnt say much to the others.
One thing that never changes is the mother-daughter thing. My first night there my mother, who is in a wheelchair after a stroke disabled her right arm and right leg, told me to put on lipstick, go
downstairs, listen to the program, talk to people. She was going to bed. But when I got back upstairs a few hours later, she was not in bed. She was on the floor.
Whats going on? I said, frightened.
I called your name and you didnt answer. I thought you were stuck in
the bathroom or something.
So you got up to look? Why didnt you press that thing on your arm to
I thought something was wrong, she answered before dismissing the
incident and moving into the present. Now get me up. I want to go to
Thats what Im talking about. Those are her wants. She wants to go to
bed. She wants to get to breakfast on time. She wants to get her mail.
Still, when I get her in the car, when I maneuver her into Wendys,
when I wheel her across my nieces grassy backyard, she says, This is
nice. Im really enjoying this.
Forget the chickens, the peanut butter, the sunglasses. Maybe when we
get really, really old, our needs will change, too. w
E-mail Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org