I just finished what has become one of the most soothing and rewarding routines of my day: giving my mother a foot and leg massage with shea butter from the Body Shop. I cannot fully communicate how relaxing, grounding, and centering this action is for me, and how wonderful and balanced I feel at the end of it.
I love my mother. I have always had a close relationship with her--strengthened, I believe, by the lack of relationship I had with my father. My mother comes from good Kansas stock. Her parents were no-nonsense, self-reliant people. They loved each other; they cherished their children (and grandchildren); they boot-strapped themselves up; and they never took anything from anyone. My mother was raised to do the same, and there was no time for pampering herself when I was growing up. She never used expensive (relatively speaking) creams on her skin--even though it was always quite delicate. She certainly never had massages.
Two years ago, after my father died, my mother moved in with us. She has since been obsessed with pulling her weight, not bothering anyone, not getting in the way, and not making anything more difficult. A few weeks ago, she had her right hip replaced, and her desire not to put anyone out had dire consequences when she carried some recycling out to the front porch--without her walker--a week after the surgery and fell and broke her leg below the prosthesis. The fall resulted in seven hours in the ER and then a transfer to the hospital where she had had her surgery performed so her surgeon could do another three-hour long emergency hip-replacement surgery again the next day on the same leg. This recovery has been physically, mentally, and emotionally much more difficult for her. She has needed me to do many more things for her--dressing and undressing her, carrying things, arranging pillows, leg support, getting ice packs and medications, etc--than I did the first time. I noticed the first night when I helped her get her support stockings off (she has worn them since the surgery to help keep down the swelling and prevent blod clots) that her legs were really dry. I asked if I could put some lotion on them. She said okay, and that was how we began. Now it has become a small night-time ritual. I apply the lotion, and then I stroke and massage. I try to soothe muscle and sinew as well as dry skin--and I feel so connected to life and family and time by this one, small act of taking care of my mother.
I finish this post with one piece of advice: Try it. Find someone in the generation above yours--preferably a parent, but aunts, uncles, and even random old neighbors will work fine--and do something personal for them that they would never do for themselves. Cherish them, and feel your connection to the cycle of life deepen. It's amazing.