Wisdom’s Simples

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:

“Not only is the presence of the aged in itself remedial, but their minds are stored with antidotes, wisdom’s simples, plain considerations overlooked by youth. They have matter to communicate, be they never so stupid. Their talk is not merely literature, it is great literature; classic by virtue of the speaker’s detachment; studded, like a book of travel, with things we should not otherwise have learnt . . . where youth agrees with age, not where they differ, wisdom lies; and it is when the young disciple finds his heart to beat in tune with his gray-haired teacher’s that a lesson may be learned.”

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I’d like to think that I have stored some wisdom up inside my puny brain which, when I’m in my later silver years, (down the road a few short years) a gem or two might escape unheeded and merely from habit of use.

And that this gem, however contrived or realized, would be great literature, in which ‘youth agrees with age’ and a ‘young disciple’ would find his heart to beat in tune with the lesson.

Though my mom is in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, she still surprises me with her simple gems, gentle wit, and positive attitude (when she’s not in her sundowning phase of the day or on stimulation overload.)

“It’s a beautiful sun-shiny day.”

Last Friday I spent the night at her house. Saturday morning, still in her jammies and robe, she stood in the sunshine that was breaking through her lace curtains and exclaimed, “It’s a beautiful sun-shiny day. What shall we do today?”

I carelessly shrugged my shoulders. I had other things on my mind:

First, I needed to find a way to persuade her to cut her nails and wash her hair. Second, I was silently ticking off my list: Did she take her meds? What can I do to make her home safer? Does my dad need a break today? Should I prepare a week of meals? Clean the bathrooms? Third, I was thinking I needed to get back to my “real” life with my other family—the husband and the remaining kid at home. I had work to do there.

Meanwhile, she was enjoying the sunshine while I moped.

Because she didn’t remember that she had just said, “It’s a beautiful sun-shiny day,” she said it again.

And again. Because . . .  well, you know.

Certainly, her statement wasn’t great literature. But, it was a pithy gem. One formed by years of habit. She often dwelt in possibilities, along with Emily Dickinson, extolling the could-be’s of the day.

And I was, out of habit, the gloomy stick in the mud preparing to rob her of hope.

A Lesson Learned

Know what we did?

We sat side by side on the couch and talked about nothing.

No agenda. No list to check twice. We just looked at some magazines and talked about the ads. I showed her funny things from my Facebook page. We talked about her flowers. Yes, it was the same thing all over again.

But, she reminded me that life is all about relationship, not a to-do list, and the day held promise despite her limitations. Or perhaps I should say, despite my limitations. I was the one holding back the joy with my negative outlook.

Honestly, I can’t remember ever waking up and exclaiming, “It’s such a beautiful sun shiny-day. What shall we do?”

My mom still has things to teach me.

Your turn

What “wisdom’s simples” has your LO shared with you? What have you learned from a revealed moment?

The rules are basic: Write a poem as a way to remember for them. And if you feel brave and want to share it here, feel free. If not, then write yours on a card, and share it with your ALZ person, as a way to connect. If just for that moment.

My Share:

Our SeeSaw

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My morning opens
already creased in steel-toed agendas,
charging into the war of day,
the troubles of now,
the vain labor of worry.

Your aging eyes reflect the beauty
of morning joy, unmasking
the truth that I am the lost
soul in this see-saw duet of ours
and you are the one who laughs
in the sunshine.


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