Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In the midst of aging, the joys of a walk in the park May 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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WE’D PLANNED, ALL ALONG, to wheel her outdoors, into the sunshine of a mid-May afternoon in rural southwestern Minnesota. She embraced the idea with a hint of concern. She worried about the wind, always the wind. So I searched the drawers in her room for her stocking cap, even though she didn’t need it on this 80-some degree day. I couldn’t find the cap she wanted to protect her ears.

Soon Mom forgot about the wind in the busyness of preparing for her excursion. Staff rolled a wheelchair into her room, attached a portable oxygen tank, helped her move from easy chair into wheelchair. Mom noted how good it would be to get outside. And it was. Too many months have passed since her last wheel around the care center and into the adjoining city park.


The tree I can’t identify. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


As Randy pushed her wheelchair along the sidewalk fronting Parkview, Mom noted the brightness of the afternoon. I started to view the world through her eyes, cloudy with the age of 86 years. She can’t see much at a distance. Thus I became her eyes. I described the pink splash of a blossoming crabapple tree, the rough bark of a tree I couldn’t identify. I doubt Mom saw the American flag stretched straight by the wind when we paused on the sidewalk.


A feature in the mini golf course in the city park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2017.


Just writing this, I feel a certain sadness that comes in observing how age steals the person you love, diminishing vision and memory and mobility. Yet, aging counters that loss with a return to the simple delights of life. I tried to remember that as we wound around the care center, past the mini golf course, to the park shelterhouse, past the aged log cabin and the barn swallows swooping.


Apple blossoms on an evening in May. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Occasionally we stopped, once so I could stride across the grass to an apple tree. I picked a twig of blossoms, took it back to Mom. She lifted the fragrant petals to her face, told me she couldn’t smell their sweetness. Yet, she clutched the flowers in her left hand, between thumb and forefinger. I checked my emotions in the poignancy of the moment. I wanted Mom to breathe in, once more, the intoxicating scent of spring.

On our way back to the care center, Mom noted dandelions popping yellow through the greening grass. I wish now that I had paused to pick a bouquet for her, to bring back those memories of a little girl gathering dandelions in her fist, of Mom plunging the sticky stems into a jelly jar to set upon the farmhouse kitchen table.


The log cabin in the park is a reminder of the passage of time. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2017.


This aging of parents is difficult. Roles reverse. I feel a mix of sadness and anger and then, because I have to, thankfulness that my mother is still here for me to hug and to kiss and to hear the words, “I love you.”


TELL ME: Do you have an aging parent? If so, how are you handling this stage of life?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “In the midst of aging, the joys of a walk in the park”

  1. Claudette Says:

    Lovely! I’m a GenX, or Sandwich generation. My dad is 80, my mom in her 70s…and my kids tween and early teen. So yes. So far, the parents are still healthy and living a half hour away from my family in their own house but I don’t think we can leave my dad alone longer than a few hours.

    Keep blogging. 😊

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I am weeping because I am right there with you, my friend. Today is the big move day for my mom to the memory care unit and while it will be 2 weeks until I can see her in her new place I am a bit anxious and apprehensive about how today is actually going to go. You and Randy gave your mom a huge gift by taking her out into the sunshine and spring air even if she did not respond in exactly the way you thought she might. What a wonderful post. Thank you.

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Very sweet, the way you describe taking your mom outside. My parents have both been gone for several years, but I do remember how hard it was with my dad, who outlived my mom by five years, as he wound down his days. The most important thing I did for him was to just show up, sit with him, share a beer or a sandwich, go for a ride in the car. Nothing complicated. You’re right about the return to simple pleasures; that matters.

    • I like what you did with your dad. Just show up, have a beer, go for a ride. We used to take my mom out for a drive when she was in assisted living and had the strength to get in and out of a vehicle. Oh, how she loved traveling along gravel roads to see the countryside. I miss those days. But now, I mostly just sit and visit, take her outside if weather allows. On our last visit a week ago, Randy and I enjoyed root beer floats with her in the care center dining hall. The local fire department served them. We visited with her friends, many from my nearby hometown. Simple pleasures. She’s in a wonderful care center in a small town. Staff are caring and it’s just such a wonderful home for her in these advanced years. To know that gives me some peace.

      • Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

        You – and your mom – are very lucky to have such a wonderful place for your mom to live right now. That is priceless.

      • I know. I’ve had many family members who have lived in Parkview. I cannot say enough positive things about the loving and caring staff, the facility and its location in a small town, next to a park and across the road from farm fields. Community support of this facility is phenomenal. As we were leaving last Thursday, the local fire truck was parked out front and staff were wheeling residents outdoors to visit with local volunteer firefighters and to have photos taken. I am so thankful for Parkview and for the rural Minnesota community which embraces it.

  4. One Word – THANKFULNESS 🙂 It is about the time spent together. Quality time too – just sitting, watching, observing, etc. – not rushing about. There is enough scheduled in our lives that we need to open it up and make time to just be more and do less. I love that commercial where I believe the grandson is meeting his grandpa for breakfast. The grandson has his phone in hand (actually turning it off) and grandpa asks if he needs to be somewhere and the grandson replies no, have nowhere to be. Love that!

    Beautiful post today ((((lovesandhugs))))) Enjoy Your Day 🙂

    • I wish more people would turn off their phones and just be in the moment with loved ones and friends. I never take visits with my mom for granted. Ever. She lives 2.5 hours away and each visit I imprint upon my memory and hold close.

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    When she still could walk unassisted, I always tried to get my mother outdoors. She loved the wind and the sunshine – but even the small change between outside and inside confused and frightened her.

    Where are we going?

    Around the block.

    Is it far?

    Not really.

    Are you kidnapping me?

    Not today.

    You know I don’t have any money.

    [Reaching into my pocket] Here is two dollars. Now you have money.

    You are very generous for a kidnapper.

    When we get back inside you can tell everyone that.

    Where are we going?

    Around the block.

    Is it far?

    Not as far as the last time you asked.

    You like to laugh, don’t you?

    Yes, don’t you?

    I do.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Greg. You’re right about the changes between inside and out and the reaction. I sensed that bit of trepidation in my mom as we wheeled her around. I always asked where she wanted to go and if she wanted to stay outside longer or go back indoors.

      You’re right about the need to sometimes just laugh. It takes the edge off reality.

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    What a sweet post. I am in the same boat. And the thing is, we are aging too making it not as easy to help out, or for me, to travel a distance to see mom. I’ve learned to be thankful for the times that work out to make the trip and for phone conversation.I even send letters sometime because I know mom likes getting mail. There are so many ways to connect. I’m so glad you manage good times with your mom.

    • I understand the distance issue and you are much more distant than me from your family. But I also know you do the best to stay connected, to help out from afar.

      You’re right about us aging, too. I am becoming ever more cognizant of that, thinking some day this could be me.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I love that you got to spend time with your mom outside with spring happening all around. I bet there were so many emotions welling up in your head…and heart as you walk along side your sweet mom in her wheelchair. I’m sure your mom loved the warmth of the sun and the fresh air against her face. Then…. having her daughter and son-in-law were the icing on the cake. It’s ironic how Rick and I are feeling the decline of our parents, his mom moved into the nursing home just yesterday, his dad is sad and lonely for his wife of 63+ years, he tears up when he talks about going home to an empty house, It’s sad for us to see him so sad, so we just hug him and tell him we will get through this together. My dad failing with dementia, and losing weight which goes with the disease. My mom and the stroke she had several months ago left her unable to read a novel of the newspaper. This stage of life is hard. Thanks for sharing your sweet mom with us. Sending you Big hugs and much love.

    P.S. I wonder if the tree is a Quaking Aspen… kinda looks like one.

    • Jackie, my heart hurts for you and Rick and for your parents. More and more, friends are sharing similar difficult experiences of aging parents. It’s just hard, plain hard. But I know you two are offering all the support and love you can. That is the best you can do, just to be there, to pray, to assist in whatever ways you can.

      Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  8. Kim Sisto Robinson Says:

    **I wanted Mom to breathe in, once more, the intoxicating scent of spring.**


    So many adjectives for this lovely piece of writing, Audrey.

    I just LOVE this & YOU. x

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    The log cabin is beautiful as are your words. I really can’t imagine how you feel about taking care of an elderly parent. I only felt regret that I will never have the opportunity to watch my father grow old. Scary to think that I am only three years younger than he was when he passed away.

  10. Bella Says:

    With a grateful heart you still have a mom in your life and are able to help her experience the joys of spring

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