Setting: adult daughter in her 70s visiting her mother in her mid 90s in a nursing home.
Daughter: Good morning, mother. How are you doing? She gently approaches her and kisses her face.
Mother: It’s been a long time since you came to see me. She looks unhappy.
D: I was here a few days ago. Do you remember?
M: No, it feels like a long time ago.
D: How do you feel today? M: Not good at all. I want to go home. You should be taking care of me now as I took care of you. I am your mother!
D: We have had this conversation every time I visit you. You know I am not able physically to take care of you. You need a nursing staff take care of you.
M: No, I hate it here. Only old people complaining. I want to go out, be happy and have fun. My doctor told me years ago. You know I have depression. Being around these old people makes me more depressed.
D: What do you suggest? M: Take me home with a caregiver. Take me out to eat, visit friends and relatives. I love music. I want to sing and dance.
D: Remember, when you were home with caregivers, you kept saying you were bored and accused the caregivers of stealing things. You insulted them and hurt their feelings. They left.
M: They were stealing my money. They thought I am senile, but I know where I put my money and how much. I may be old, but inside I’m like a 16 year old.
D: Yes, I see that. You want to go out, yet you seem to forget that there is a pandemic and unless it is necessary, it is suggested for older people to stay in.
M: I don’t know about this virus. If people are supposed to stay home, how about all the staff working here?
D: Mother, they have to work.
M: If it is ok for them to go to work, it is ok for me to go for a ride in the car and eat in a restaurant. YOU don’t care about me.
D: I am here visiting you.
M: I took care of my mother and mother-in-law for years until they passed on. What have I done to be left in an institution all alone? What kind of a daughter are you? You don’t love me, and you don’t listen to me.
D: What do you mean that I don’t listen to you?
M: Why do you look like this? I told you to color your hair. You would look much younger. Why don’t you put on make- up? Don’t you want to be pretty? Look at your eye brows. Women nowadays tattoo their eye brows. Why don’t you?
D: I know appearances are very important to you and you love to be pretty. How I look is my choice.
M: Your hair! YOU are mine! I brought you to this world. I am your mother! YOU owe me. If you, your children and grandchildren could be around me, I’d be ok. I gave them life.
D: Mother, let me be clear. I think parents must do everything they possibly can for the children they brought to this world. Children have no obligation to the parents. Our children and grandchildren live and do what they wish. I’ll be going now. Goodbye.
As the daughter was leaving, the words of Kahlil Gibran in his book, The Prophet about children were echoing in her mind. “ Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And although they are with you yet they don’t belong to you……………”
Oh, if there was a way to insert those words of wisdom in the mother’s mind……
Growing up in Iran, I saw only the images in movies of Christmas trees. Those images, along with the wrapped gifts under the trees, the holiday music, and the lights were exhilarating. Longing to be part of such an experience, I could only imagine how heartwarming it would be to wake up on such a morning… to be with other children as we unwrapped gifts.
I had a few Armenian friends in school who celebrated Christmas. Yet, Christmas was a family time. The first time I saw a Christmas tree was in college when a friend invited me to her home. Awestruck, I stared at their majestic tree.
When I came to the U.S., the Christmas tree became the symbolfor the spirit of the holidays. The elaborate decorations and creativity were awesome. I loved the photos of the children used as ornaments. When our children were grown, they asked why we did not have a tree? No matter how many gifts they got for the holidays, they, especially our older son, were missing the tree and the other Christmas symbols. He longed for the traditional images and dreamt of coming down the stairs in the early morning to see the gifts under the tree.
Our first tree was memorable with the help of our son and his girlfriend. Of course, I was not aware of how time consuming it was to set up the tree and the remaining items that create the holiday mood. Movies tend to reveal only one side of the story! We got musical lights playing all night near the fireplace. We wished to keep the tree long after Christmas. Why not? The aroma of the pine was soothing to the body and the soul. When it was time to take the decorations down, the children were not available. Boxes were filled until the following year.
After the holidays, I experienced an uncomfortable feeling seeing the beautiful trees on the street of our neighborhood waiting to be picked up. The beautiful trees could have lived much longer if they had not been cut down or if they remained in the container with water. After the children had returned to their own homes, it would have been easy to keep the trees in their homes.
When the grandchildren joined the family, my husband and I decided to welcome them for the holidays with a decorated tree. The artificial tree, a gift from our daughter, quieted my inner discomfort. Setting up the tree was exciting. Again, taking the decoration down was another story. Over the years, the boxes of decorations grew.
In one of my creative writing classes, there is a soul sister and a poet whose poetry touches my heart. When our classes resorted to utilizing Zoom at the start of the pandemic, I noticed she had a holiday tree in the back of her room. She explained that she keeps the tree all year around and with each season or a celebration, she decorates it accordingly. What a brilliant idea!My husband had already decided to keep the tree in the corner of our living room.
I had my own reflection. I wanted our tree to be the love treedecorated with hearts and the artwork of our grandchildren. They often bring handmade arts from school, and some are made especially for us. Yes, around Valentine’s Day, the decoration would be all hearts, yet around the year, the tree has become a symbol of love for our family.
My husband and I went to the University of Maryland in College Park in August of 1973 to attend graduate school. At every opportunity, we visited all the tourist attractions in the area. There was a time that I felt I could have functioned as an official tour guide at the White House, or so I imagined. Every visitor we had during the three and half years living there, wanted to see all the unique attractions in Washington D.C.
While we studied there, we were blessed in creating lifelong friends. Among them, Firoozeh and Hassan were a couple loved and respected by all those who had the honor of knowing them. They are one of the most loving couples I have had the pleasure to know.
They make me feel loved even across many miles. In person, they are like two Suns radiating love with their kind eyes and warm smiles. When science is able to perfect the cloning process, my vote is for them to be the first. With millions of loving people like them on our planet, Earth would become the “paradise”described in the afterlife.
In our 48 years of friendship, my love for them has become deeper as we have experienced many life challenges and the waves of life. When all is well in life, friends are around, and social connections are easy. It is in the heart of the storm that true friends come, and others disappear.
In August of 2021, we were able to make a visit to Maryland again. They offered their time and their home to be with us. Firoozeh, is the unequivocal ambassador of love and friendship. She devoted long hours in contacting and inviting all our friends from half a century ago for a gathering, a reunion. I wonder how many hours and how many contacts it took to schedule a Sunday suitable for most. We were to meet at the famous Great Falls Park at noon for an all-day picnic.
Given the pandemic, we, who are now enjoying our golden years, were in the high risk group.
Given the planner she is, knowing the chance of an unexpected change in the weather, especially the possibility of rain, Firoozeh created an alternate plan. A dear friend who is an amazing woman (a mother, grandmother, entrepreneur, and civil engineer) offered her beautiful, spacious home in case of rain. She also takes care of her three grandchildren on Sundays.
On this trip, I was reminded again of how quickly the weather changes. A sunny day can turn into a storm in less than an hour. Thunder, lightning, and heavy rain turns into a beautiful sunset and vice versa. The forecast indicated a chance of rain and plan B became the plan.
Firoozeh and Hassan picked us up and offered theirtime for the whole day. Our host’s home was a mansion. Her spacious living room was set up for a huge gathering with tables full of a variety of food:veggie plates, assorted sandwiches for every taste and heavenly desserts. There was enough food for an army of hungry men. My heart was filled with love and gratitude for each friend who visited. Two friends came in black after a recent loss of a loved one. Long hugs were healing. A friend cut his workshop short to be there after a long drive. Having a chance to visit each attendee after such a long time, was healing. Meeting new friends in this loving circle was the bonus.
Throughout the day, the hostess was taking care of her grandchildren. One child was not feeling well. My love and respect for this woman became much deeper seeing her interaction with her grandchildren. This was a Goddess operating an engineering firm and being a grandma at heart. One friend, a photographer, took photos of all the interactions. When we had last met with all these friends, our hair colors were brown, or certainly darker. Now we were silver-haired, all sharing our individual journeys. Our root connection was intact. The group photo at the end was a moment to cherish for a lifetime. We felt loved.
During the day, Firoozeh & Hassan were constantly attending to the guests, serving, cleaning, reorganizing,and managing the gathering with excellence. After the gathering they informed us that they had also taken a day off from work to take us around wherever we wish. They were going away for a wedding for the Labor Day weekend and we could not see them again.
Since we planned for this vacation, my husband and I wondered if we could have the possibility of touring of Washington D.C. We had visited all the monuments before, yet we longed to see them again, especially the Capitol building after Jan 6, 2021.
Our loving friends prepared for everything. There are open tour busses in D.C. where we could hop on and off all day that we had considered. Now, we had our private and experienced tour guides determined to show us everything humanly possible in one day. Traffic is D.C. is a challenge. Hassan knew the city like “the palm of his hand”, a Farsi expression.
We began by visiting the new monuments we had not seen before, starting with Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It felt like we were visiting a sacred space. There were military personnel there. I wondered if it was for security. We were blessed witnessing a promotion ceremony for an African American soldier. The experience represented hope and transformation for me.
The sun was shining, and the blue sky and gentle breeze made our walk to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial a warm memory walking through cherry trees, a gift from Japan. They invited us to come back in March to see the world- famous cherry blossoms. Seeing the same statue and same carvings on the wall felt different at age 73 compared to age 25. I thought about our shared personal history. How does one impact humanity?
Visiting the Capitol building was entirely a different experience. We stayed there a long time. The images of January 6 were going through my mind, and I wondered what the building would say if it could speak. This building had witnessed presidents taking office, leaving a footprint. This building is one of the seats of American democracy. I wondered then and now, how the next generation would look back on January 6, 2021.
The monument of Franklin Roosvelt was new to us. This was the president like no other, unique in many ways. He was the only one who served four times, the last term incomplete. He was in a wheelchair and his wife Eleanor was a First Lady who truly made a difference in the lives of humanity at large. We stayed a long time reading every carving on the walls, words of wisdom during one of the most challenging times of this nation. I wonder about the possibility of ensuring that every president elect would visit this monument as a reminder of their responsibility to serve the people. Our friends were patient, understanding and respectfulwith our staying a long time.
Our tour guides brought assorted snacks and drinks for us. They were mindful and gave us frequent breaks in the most charming places to rest. Our visit to the Botanical Gardens was a highlight. I took photos every minute capturing the beauty of the moment. Recognizing my passion for photos, our hosts offered to take photos of us in every corner. We must have taken over 100 photos in one day. We had lunch in the most interesting sculpture garden. They were determined to maximize our visit until our body stopped us. Their plan took us past midnight.
Our visit to the Kenndy Center was unique remembering not only the world class performances we had seen there, but also knowing that our actor son had performed there. The engraved words of J.F. Kennedy about the essence of creative arts for a civilization must be read by all presidents. Imagine, if every capital city around the globe would have a similar performing art center with free performances open to the public. Imagine people learning about other cultures via their creative arts. There would be a soul connection of all nations.
Firoozeh & Hassan invited us to a restaurant at the Potomac River with a view of the Kennedy Center. After hours of walking and sightseeing, our bodies were reminding us of our aging process even though we confronted our denial. The view was breathtaking. The unique scene was the flight of official helicopters every minute transporting high officials in D.C. It was a workday in the most important capital in the world.
My beloved was done for the day. His aching back was giving him signals that he had had enough walking. Our tour guides were willing to show us the Capital at night by driving around, stopping for photos of the Washington Monument. Did you know that all the museums in D.C are free to public? The Smithsonian Institute has one of the richest museums in the world. Unfortunately, we missed seeing the portrait of Michelle & Barak Obama.
Such deep love and friendship is something we will cherish for a lifetime. On the drive back, we learned that Hassan had a dental appointment early in the morning in D.C. He was up early and had already gone and come back before picking us up. We are early risers and could have gone early with them saving time. He must have been tired, yet he always had a wide smile. He kept asking if there were any other places we wish to see. The sound of their laughter is still in my mind and their loving, kind faces knowing we will remember this day for a lifetime.
If you have had the privilege to have friends likeFiroozeh and Hassan, you are among the most fortunate people on the planet. Their friendship is a treasure in our life.