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Upon reflection of the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I think the story is brilliant.

Here’s why: I oversee the care of my 86-year-old mother and the care of my nine week old grand child. The two are similar in that they don’t have a lot of choices about life. So I can see where the storyline comes from. The writer asked “what if?” and there it was.

My mother sees life closing in on her. Her movements are more tentative, frailer, smaller every day. She is less and less sure of walking across the room. She can’t make the television change away from one channel. I’ve explained it a dozen times and written it down. But no, she’s decided the television doesn’t work.  Her values, beliefs, and determination remain strong but the world she maneuvers within has become tighter, tougher. It must be scary for her. She refuses to admit defeat, which is good for her but quite worrisome for those who care about her.

On the other hand, my grand child’s life unfolds within a growing world every day. She can see better. At birth her eyesight was only as well-defined as her mother’s face. Every week her distance vision grows sharper. She’s now sitting up and watching the football game with her grandfather. Her bright smile and obvious excitement at every turn has me believing that she’s a bundle of possibilities and not just a little bundle of flesh and bone with arms and legs that seem to sneak up and surprise her with their wild movements.

The baby’s movements are changing and growing more precise every day as her muscles grow stronger. My mother has lost most of her muscle mass. She holds up her arm and I can see each bone with the flesh sagging around it. She struggles to get out of a chair. She has never cared much for any physical activity and forget exercise, though she did go through a Jack LaLanne phase.  At this point, she is a poster child for “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” If I remind her that she needs to walk to gain strength, she gives me that thin-lipped look, with an ever so slight shrug. No, she doesn’t want to, so it isn’t going to happen. She tells her helper that I make her tired.

So the writer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” must have experienced or seen the connection of opposites with the very old and very young and asked “what if a person was born old, grew younger, and died a baby?” What kind of difficulties would this present? What kind of difficulties would this present for everyone else? Especially those who loved that person?

While my grand child increases joy in our home, worry over my mother grows. I try not to think about it but then if I don’t think about it, here comes the guilt. Worry-guilt all for love. It’s a curious case of not really knowing what to do, nor how to do it.

 

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