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Prairie Girl

By Arthur N. Gottlieb, LCSW, CSA

 

She was “Midwest born” and raised, and never felt quite at home in this upscale town, saturated with sleek German cars and Botox. For her, sturdy self-reliance and honesty were the criteria for all matters and, as always, enduring faith would guide her through whatever daunting challenges lay ahead.

He was tall and handsome. A broad, engaging smile betrayed his physical condition—no longer able to walk, with memory and senses failing. Now buckled to his chair should he lose his balance, he held a giant magnifying glass as he struggled to read a well-bookmarked volume on American history.

The children, a son and daughter, were worried about their parents, their stubborn desire to remain in their own home as long as possible, and mother’s determination to handle things herself to the point of jeopardizing her own health. Born in a different era, the kids, now grown, approached life’s challenges very differently from their mother’s quiet faith and economy of words.

Now around the kitchen table for a family meeting called by the children, Father sat to my left, studying his book, and Mother to my right where, behind her grey blond hair, she chafed at the intervention now upon her.

The discussion unfolded, soon revealing the awkward parent-child role reversal now taking place. Mother looked down at the table, fighting off claims that her time-honored self-sufficiency was no longer enough. Father, still reading, was being discussed as if he were somewhere in the background and not actually sitting right there at the table.

There is a bond between elderly couples married for many years. A bond formed through decades of shared experiences, intimate secrets, mutual successes and failures. A bond that has the power to transcend current circumstances.

As the children continued to voice their opinions, demanding changes that their parents needed to make, it was they who now drifted to the background as Father raised his eyes to catch Mother’s attention. Now in a private moment, as if the children weren’t even there, he smiled and softly said to his wife,
“I love you, Prairie Girl.”

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