Turned the Page

We wonder why we try to write, sometimes. Especially when the phrases aren't coming easily, the book contracts aren't forthcoming, or it's just one of those straight uphill days. If we're lucky something happens to make us realize why the struggle is worth it. 

That something, this time, is what's happened to my mother.

My mom's been waiting to die for years. Not only waiting, wanting to die. It's no secret, you can ask anyone who knows her, even her. Why this time last year, with so much most anyone else would consider every reason to live--her grandaughter's upcoming wedding, a new great-grandson, two grandchildren's graduations and money enough to do whatever she wanted, and reasonably good health--mom said exactly that, not once, but several times. "I want to die." "I wish I were dead." She said it loudly and seriously enough that the staff at the assisted living reported it and therapy was ordered. 

Mom doesn't get out much. Not that she can't. Or doesn't have opportunities. But she chooses not to. Days go by and she never leaves her apartment. Not even for meals. (Even though going to the dining room is a requirement in her Independent-Assisted Living facility). Mom's tried some of the activities. She's gone on some field trips, took art classes for a while, even played bingo for a spell (because her then boyfriend "Charlie" liked to play). But then, she started having bladder issues and despite what they say in the Depends commercials, her will to participate flew. And took with it, her will to live. 

Then, someone got the brilliant idea to start a Book Club. The staff coerced--insisted-- mom attend.. Now, this isn't what you'd think of as the usual book club. Usually, book club members read the books on their own and then coming together for discussion. In this book club, members listen to a book. Why?  Because most of the folks in the club can't see to read anymore. So, an hour at a time, once a week, they listen as one person reads a chapter or two, with occasional pauses to discuss parts that aren't clear or might be particularly interesting. They continue on this way until the book is finished. Unless the chapters are super short, at a chapter a week, it takes months to finish a book. 

At first, specifically because working through a book was slow going, Mom wasn't keen on the book club. In fact, if Dana, the director, hadn't told Mom she had to participate in "something" or she would have to move out as this was not a nursing home--and even then, if they hadn't served snacks (cookies, cakes and coffee)--Mom probably would have quit. But then fate intervened by way of a novel entitled A Journal for Jordan.

 Other than that it was an "Oprah Book", I have absolutely no clue idea what A Journal for Jordan is about. Or whether it's particualrly well written, or interesting, or not... All I know is that the young aide, the "designated reader" for the Book Club was having "a difficult time" reading some of the passages. "She kept mispronouncing words," Mom said. 

What you may not know is: my mother is a retired teacher, a reading specialist, and an excellent reader. (Something the aide found out soon enough.) After being corrected a few too many times, the aide--perhaps in a slightly irritated voice--asked Mom,  "Do you want to read the book?"

To her surprise, Mom said, "yes!" 

Ever since, every week, Mom's been the designated "Reader" in the Book Club. Attendance in the Book Club is on the rise. (The other day "a man" join it!) Mom's become something of a celebrity in the Assisted Living, and best, there are plans afoot to increase club meetings to two-a-week.

The satisfaction Mom gets from reading to the other residents who can't read, and the praise they heap on her for her "lovely voice" and "excellent expressiveness" and "cheerful clothing" is what made the difference. It literally changed Mom's life! Not only doesn't Mom want to die anymore, she's got the club booklist . . . and her Book Club wardrobe planned out for quite some time to come.

Books can transform--save lives!