Her days are long, her activity restricted, but my mother has no complaints. She's 96 and requires 'round the clock assistance, but she's home, where she prefers to be.
Watching television is about her only recreational outlet, except for a view out the window to an outside that used to be a joyful staple of her life.
Her mind is alert, and we are grateful for that. Her mobility is limited, and we regret that. In another day, she ran the house and helped our father in the fields.
"That's just the way it was, son," she was saying the other day. It was a life the current generation could not imagine-which has made me conclude that when America was more rural, the country was better off. Not necessarily for those who experienced the hard life of my parents, but as most of us are painfully aware, bigger is not better.
Sadly, the good life spoils.
Eventually, she and my father, who died at 92, came to know the comforts of indoor plumbing. Air conditioning. Having a dishwasher. The first modern convenience was a refrigerator -- the milk would no longer spoil -- and then there was an electric stove, which meant that we had no reason to cut stove wood.
Her routine, before that I can remember so well. Up in the morning and to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Then get the lead vegetable of the week -- either peas or butterbeans -- prepared for cooking at lunch when everybody came in from the fields.
Then it was back to the fields for the afternoon. Supper was leftovers (those peas or butterbeans). Evenings were spent on the porch with an old Philco radio bringing us country music, but there usually was more static than dulcet tones.
Socializing was confined to Saturday and Sunday afternoons. On Saturday, we drove into town in a pickup truck. Grocery shopping for the next week was a highlight because it gave my parents an opportunity to engage in light gossip and small talk.
Sunday afternoon was for church and more small talk, but often created great frustration for me. With good luck, I could pick up a major league baseball game on the radio, but church took precedent over everything else.
On top of that, some in the church believed it a sin to listen to baseball on Sunday. "Son those games have beer commercials," my daddy would say.
"Is listening to a beer commercial a sin?" I would always ask.
"It ain't good for you," was always the response.
On a recent visit to see my mother, I walked outside and surveyed the property. There are scuppernong vines with trellises, which my dad fashioned with his hands, and haywire, a farmer's best friend. Life on a farm was characterized by making do, which meant that you had to use your hands to build and fix. There is always something to fix on a farm. No complaining, no lamenting what you didn't have -- just find a way to be resourceful.
We didn't consider ourselves poor. We had plenty to eat, we had a roof over our heads, and we were lean and healthy. The biggest insult you could have given my father would have been to suggest he accept a transfer payment. If Parkinson's disease hadn't visited him after he was 90 years old, I believe he would be driving his pickup truck today.
No woman could have been more loving than my mother. No man could have been more independent than my daddy. Catching a jetliner to some place like London or Paris came about for me, but they didn't want anything like that. All they wanted was health and happiness and a better life for their children and grandchildren.
Seeing my mother recently in a familiar environment but without my father made me think of the Beatitude "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.