Yesterday I went to visit my mother’s big brother, Uncle Rowl. I found him settled in a comfy armchair enjoying his morning tea. He lives at an aged care facility in Tauranga, and next week he’ll celebrate his 99th birthday.
It’s deeply touching to spend time with a wise old man whose blue eyes still twinkle like they did when he was a young buck. His mind is tired and wanders a bit; his body is worn out and happy to rest. But the aliveness that lives him hasn’t changed one bit – our eyes meet and IT is all there is, beaming brilliantly.
It seems to me that for Uncle (and it was the same for Mum) life is an adventure in downsizing. Born and raised on a huge high country sheep station in the South Island, he stepped down just a notch onto his own farm where, with his wife he would raise a family, drive his team of Clydesdales, be a prosperous sheep farmer and a very creative gardener. I remember a big farmhouse filled with fine furniture and the ever-present aromas of country home-cooking wafting out of the kitchen.
Retirement saw him step down much further as he moved into a suburban home – with the garden of his dreams. When the dream became a burden rather than a joy, he moved into a villa with a smaller patch to play with in a retirement village. The next step down was into a serviced apartment within the complex, with just a few potted friends on the terrace, and nursing care at hand. Now he’s in a small en-suite room closer to the nurses’ station and he tells me with obvious delight, “I have nothing!”
He’s radiant. So like his sister, my beloved mother. All that’s left is the beaming luminosity of life itself. As I leave him he settles into his sun-drenched chair beside the window. “How lovely!” he says softly.
Yes, I think. How utterly perfect.
I fold my hands and bow.