Saturday, March 14, 2009

In memory of Helen

Everything seems backwards now. And it's not just the economy. Used to be

Ah gits weary
An' sick of tryin'
Ah'm tired of livin'
An' skeered of dyin',
But ol' man river,
He jes'keeps rolling' along.

Now death is the reward. Thankfully, the struggle is over, the end of pain for the matriarch and of anxious times for the children. We compare the well being of societies by their life expectancy. I wonder why.

Helen had her 90th birthday just a month ago. Most of us were here in Des Moines then. The real benefit of this marathon that had not yet come to an end is that the siblings, my wife one of those, and their spouses and offspring and for the adult offspring their offspring as well, all would gather for a meal in celebration, suspending the ordinary pace of life in the name of family.

But all was not joy at the birthday party. Alzheimers would not allow it. Helen, with grace and determination, kept up her charms in her joking way of interaction, though she couldn't remember who you were. And she was so anemic and frail. The kids worried about that. And they worried that she was beginning to outlive her estate. Who plans to be a nonagenerian?

Things also seem backwards in that we're scared of living. I relearned an old lesson on this trip. Technology can frighten us, especially those of us who seem otherwise to have life in their hip pocket. One of my brother-in-laws got a Kindle about a week ago. He hadn't yet started to use it. He quizzed me about what I did with it.

We who take technology for granted need to remember that not everyone else does and that anything unfamiliar can intimidate anyone, even the bravest. We must encourage those we support to overcome their apprehension. The obstacles with new technology are molehills, not mountains. Using the technology well is a way to live life to its fullest, a value we all can embrace. Thank you, Helen, for reminding us of that.

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