A LaGrange Point is a spot in outer space where objects stay put. This is usually not a thing in space, as things have a habit of falling into gravity wells that pockmark just about everywhere in the black velvet vacuum.
But something can “stay put” when the gravitational pull of two or more bodies sorta cancel each other out.
I know. That is a bad description. Here’s NASA explaining things much better: “At Lagrange points, the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them.”
There are five well-known LaGrange Points (L1 through L5) near the Earth. L2 is directly opposite the Sun with the Earth in between. I like L2, which is about a million miles away. It is where the Webb Space Telescope is perched, doing a remarkable job of sending back unprecedented and spectacular images of deep space.
I’m in my own LaGrange Point, much closer to home, kinda held in check by two countervailing forces.
On one hand, being a sexagenarian (i.e., being of sixty to seventy years of age, not what you thought it was), I’m becoming painfully aware of some changes that are attributable to age. I won’t go into them now: suffice it to say that I understand Shakespeare’s complaints about mutability in his Sonnets. And it’s getting a whole lot easier being a curmudgeon than an idealist.
And, I suspect, my daughters are having furtive conversations about the future. Not just any future, my future.
On the other hand, I am the child of a near-nonagenarian. So, while I’m getting observed for changes by loving and patient children of my own, I’m doing a lot more than observing. I worry, along with my siblings (and thank God I have some), about things like ambulance access, groceries, snow-removal, heating – not at my house, but at the backwoods retirement A-frame designed and built by my deceased father and surviving mother.
I’ve heard complaints like these for decades from my parishioners and my counselees: My father won’t use his walker. My mother refuses to wear her Life-Alert bracelet. My parents won’t take Meals-On-Wheels. My father-in-law yelled at the cleaning service and kicked them out of the house. My grandmother won’t move in with my aunt, even though she cries about being lonely every day. My in-laws got taken in by a text that said the IRS was going to take their house and put them under arrest if they didn’t call this number and pay up – immediately.
And these are the non-embarrassing complaints: we won’t even go into the ones that involve late-night promenades in dishabille (or less, much less).
Not to mention the hardest conversation of all, when for many good reasons the family is not able, even with herculean and self-sacrificing efforts, to take care of their aged loved one at home anymore.
I’ve heard all these things from a safe, professional distance, and I listened with empathy, positive regard, and often gave pretty good advice.
Now, many, if not most, of these complaints are my own. I’m in the trees so far that I can barely see the woods. The advice I used to think was pretty good doesn’t sound so good anymore. Nothing is simple.
You know what the main complication is? When I was younger, I believed in simplistic abstractions. Any service could be found. Any problem could be solved by formulas and tables and calculations. I believed in policy and program, the most current sociologies and psychologies. I was a pretty good consultant.
Until it came to my own case… or, rather, mom’s case.
She is not a problem that needs a solution. I cannot help but think what that house means to her, how she and my dad put up stone walls by hand and put up drywall on their own. All those cool afternoons in the Laurel Highlands. All those evenings, reading “The Upper Room.”
And that long languid decline that ended in one much longer unending minute that stretched into a grief that was known to come, but when it came it came as the thunderous clap of a muffled toll when he breathed his last in her arms.
That LaGrangian place, that point in time, will not move.