Let me be like Maude

Let me throw my most prized possession into the middle of a lake so I’ll always know where it is. Let me know that things will only be meaningful in my mind and my heart, not in my hand.

Last week my sister and I traveled back to Montana to spend Memorial Weekend with my 90 year old grandparents. The whole family went back, a planned visit when we could all be there, in order to go through their house and divvy up ‘stuff’ in preparation for their move to an assisted living facility. Problem was, Grandfather is in early stage dementia and had forgotten he’d planned this weekend, so we arrived like vultures picking meat off of the bones of a still living animal. He became sullen and angry, my mother got into an argument with her mother that ended with both of them in tears and my grandmother storming into her room and locking her door. Delightful. Meanwhile, the rest of us got into the scotch and watched Liam ride a cane around the house like a wooden horsey.

Let me remember as I age to begin parting with cherished items as I go: to children and grandchildren, my jewelry, my plates, and to friends and neighbors, shoes that don’t fit, handbags no longer necessary. Let me remember not to place too much importance on the material item. My mother just said to me today that her sister is getting all of the items that had belonged to Uncle Carl. She said, ‘Uncle Carl was my favorite and I’m not going to get anything of his to remind me of him”. So without the ‘stuff’ that was his, she won’t be able to remember him? It becomes more competition between siblings, more proof of favoritism, more fodder for hurt feelings. There’s this little voice inside saying, “I want it I want it I want it” which sounds childish and feels wronged. I experienced it while I was there. I could feel the pull of the undercurrent, taunting me that I wasn’t going to get anything if I didn’t speak up. I took some time to walk through the house looking at everything with the eyes of wanting and I could see a few things that I wouldn’t mind having. But I also felt the deep pain of a losing game : as soon as I became invested in wanting something I was setting myself up for getting hurt by not getting it. I started repeating in my head, ‘I have everything I need already. I am so lucky. I have everything I need and more already.’

Much easier in theory than practice, but practice will help. After these visits with my grandparents I become absorbed with thoughts of how to age gracefully; how to let go of the things I could once do, the things I once had, while watching the younger ones soar into the height of their energy and success. How do I cultivate joy in passing the baton to the next generation? How can I be more like Maude?

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