Gratitude for community’s kindness

By Helen Metzger

The author’s mother Miyoko Jones.

We all have challenges in life – circumstances that push us to our limits, and take us to unex­pected places that we previously had thought we couldn’t endure. For me it was the illnesses and decline of my parents, especially mom. Watching the pain and struggle, and my interventions with less and less success, was often panic inducing and overwhelming.

After the inevitable end, I found various ways to process the experience and regain my footing. I discussed details and impressions with my closest friends. I gathered my journal entries and wrote a book about the life lessons I learned. I went to places that mom and I used to go together to retrace our footprints. Although some years have passed, I still take her best friend out to lunch on occasion, because now that is the closest I can come to sitting with mom.

Working through these experiences, I again come to unexpected places, with beliefs and con­clusions that balance out the pain with blessings. One is a deeper understanding of who mom was, and how she was a blueprint of who I was to become. I have learned what is important in life, and how to embrace what each day brings. I have also learned what is precious, and how to appre­ciate what is every day for me, but what others may never experience.

This last point is what has compelled me to write this letter. When mom became very frail, I first moved in with her, and soon after my hus­band and I moved her into our home in Alpine. This gave me such contrasting experiences of what it was like to care for Mom in busier, more self absorbed neighborhoods, and what it was like to move about in our unique, quieter, and more cohesive community.

Mom loved to go to Ahi Sushi. Yes, I loved the food there too, but what I noticed even more was the gentleness and patience of the staff. They waited on her in an affectionate, unhurried way, and always gave her plenty of room and time to maneuver her walker, and later her transport chair. The staff at Barons Market gave her sunny smiles and made friendly eye contact, as opposed to other stores outside of Alpine that saw mom as an obstacle to avoid in their rushed days. The Alpine Kiwan­is Club graciously welcomed her to every meeting, even though all she could contribute was a smile as she basked in the warmth of accepting kindness.

One of the biggest examples I can point to of how of our town is different is our local VFW. I would take mom there every week to play bingo. If you are familiar with bingo you know the seriousness and intensity that most players bring to the game! But at the Alpine VFW the bingo callers would dis­cretely watch to see that mom was ready before proceeding. The other players noticed this, and instead of scowling as I know would have happened elsewhere, they smiled cordial­ly and chatted as they waited. During breaks the other players included mom in their conversa­tions, and watched out for her while I went to the bar to get our drinks.

Alpine people noticed mom’s limitations, and gave her ex­tra space, time, and a friendly hand when it was helpful. Peo­ple greeted her, remembered her name, and asked about her day with genuine interest. In­stead of using me as an inter­mediary, they acknowledged her personhood and spoke directly to her, accepting without judg­ment that she would need an extra moment to sort out her response.

Yesterday, a friend of mine texted me that she was glad she was raising her daughters in a place where there are good neighbors and the atmosphere is that of kindness, caring, and drawing together in times of need. I am so grateful that mom’s last two years were here, in Alpine, where she also expe­rienced these community traits in full measure.

So, my purpose in this writ­ing is twofold. First, to thank you, all of you, for what you do to make this place a safe and loving haven in a world that is often cold, harsh and pres­sured. You may have interacted directly with mom (the tiny Japanese lady with the walker on good days, transport chair on weaker ones) during the years 2018-2020. Or maybe your in­teraction was not direct, but you certainly contributed to the amazing vibe we have going on here!

Second, I encourage you (if you don’t already) to notice what we have. This really is a special place, full of remarkable people, creating an opportunity to live life with support and kindness. I didn’t really take note of it during the years be­fore mom came here. But, like I said earlier, caring for mom taught me to take notice of what is important and precious, and how to appreciate the everyday life of Alpine.

Helen Metzger has lived in Alpine since 1994. She is the author of the upcoming book “Gathering Painful Treasures.”


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