Joy on a hilltop


Nazy Kaviani
by Nazy Kaviani

For Esfand Ashena's "Elderly Care" series.

I was 12 when my mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I remember the confusion that reigned in our household, which my mother used to manage with utmost precision. The perfectly maintained yard, the beautifully decorated and maintained house, the well-stocked pantry and kitchen, the pristine guest bedding, and all that went into the affairs of a family with eight children, all of it fell by the wayside and took a second seat to the health of my mother who, at only 40, was alternatively in excruciating pain or under heavy medication. For several months, all of us, along with the household staff, who were with the family for years, looked confused and dazed, in need of instructions, which used to be issued by my mother in frequent orders but which all of a sudden had stopped. My father was the first one to realize that my mother was not going to "get better" soon.

I remember the day he called me and four of my sisters into a room and closed the door. He said that while he was going to be looking for the best possible medical attention for our mother, he was looking to us to make sure that the household would remain in good shape, so that my mother would not be saddened by the chaos, which had become an everyday occurrence in our home. So, I learned how to cook when I was 12. I learned to set the table, cut fresh roses from the yard and put them in vases, and I learned to do the mundane things, to even tell my younger sisters to make sure they brushed their teeth every night.

As the degenerative disease claimed more and more of my mother's abilities and health, I, along with my father and my sisters, learned to throw parties on my mother's behalf, cook huge meals, and entertain, all so that my mother would not miss her happy and bustling household in which frequent parties were held. I think we did quite well.

We also learned to take care of my mother. We tried to do everything we could do for her, everything from massaging her aching body to handing her medication. We gradually learned to bathe her, change her clothes, feed her, and care for her. I don't know why taking care of her never felt like a chore to me. I mean, I was doing the physical work, but somehow, she never felt like a sick or disabled person, an invalid, to me. Taking care of her became an extension of our love for her, to the point where in our comings and goings into a room, for example, we also did my mother's maintenance without thinking about it. It must have been her sharp mind and the bigger-than-life presence of her soul in the middle of our lives that kept us from noticing or remembering her growing physical limitations. When I look back, all I can remember is light and lightness, laughter and immense fun in her presence. I am aware now that somewhere in between the words and the laughter, I must have brushed her hair and changed her clothes, but I can't really remember the details, they were unimportant.

Some of the best memories I have of my mother are from the mid-1980's when my father and she used to come to stay with us in the US six months of the year, spending the other six months in Iran near my other siblings. I remember one time I made an optometrist appointment for her at UC Berkeley's Optometry School. On a gorgeous spring day, she and I set out for the doctor's visit. We left my tiny cottage near downtown Berkeley to "walk" up to UC Berkeley's Optometry Clinic. To be more precise, she was in her wheelchair and I was pushing her up a steep sidewalk in Berkely. It was a serious effort, which grew harder and harder as we entered the campus and then had to navigate more and more hills, but we were talking and laughing and having a good time despite my huffing and puffing.

When we finally made it to the clinic they gave my mother a thorough eye examination, including the part where they dropped something into her eyes to make them dilate for a thorough check up, and then gave her one of those disposable paper sunglasses that are supposed to help protect the dilated eyes against bright light. The two of us then started our trip back home, this time mainly going downhill. At first I was enjoying the ease of it, remembering how hard it was to push the wheelchair up the hill. But then the hills started getting steeper, and it was a chore to control the wheelchair from taking off! Moment by moment, the wheelchair picked up speed and I had to push the emergency break a few times to slow down its momentum. My sweet mother was sitting in the wheelchair, saying nothing, but laughing to my jokes as I was struggling with the task at hand. She had her paper sunglasses on and our speed had already blown her headscarf back to her shoulders and her gorgeous curly hair, which I had dyed myself, was now in motion in the wind.

So, we went down one hill and up another and then climbed it up to the top, till finally we came to the top of the steepest one. Looking all the way to the bottom of the hill, I knew it was going to be near impossible to control the wheelchair. I looked at my mother and I couldn't see her eyes behind the paper sunglasses, but the rest of her face seemed peaceful and a smile remained dancing in the corner of her lips. I said: "Mom, are you ready for this ride?" And she simply said: "Yes." I took one more look at the open space ahead, all the way to the bottom of the hill, jumped on the back of her wheelchair to make it heavier and hopefully weigh it down some, and let it go. The moving apparatus glided down the hill and the two of us were screaming our heads off with exhilaration and joy, the wind blowing our hair and energizing our smiles. I remember laughing and I remember my mom making noises people would make on a roller coaster! We finally made it to the bottom of the hill in one piece, totally euphoric.

My mother passed away in 1996, due to complications caused by taking cortisone for years. If I must remember her illness and caring for her, this is the memory I most profoundly remember--my mother and her wheelchair, which became a toy, an extension of the two of us in celebrating how beautiful our lives were together. She never was a burden, my partner in joy, my mother.


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Azarin Sadegh

Oh dear...

by Azarin Sadegh on

This memory of your mother is incredibly touching! No wonder you've ended up being such an extraordinary woman. It should be in your blood! You carry part of your mother's strength, her fearlessness, her grace and her sense of laughter.

Thank you so much for sharing this private heartwarming memory with us!

Love, xoxoxo, Azarin

Nazy Kaviani

Thank you!

by Nazy Kaviani on

Thank you my beautiful friends! How kind you are to me and what encouraging words you sent my way! My life has been so complicated of late, with work and many commitments which have continually deprived me of any time left to continue my experiments with writing. I am grateful for the encouragement, because I really want to write more, as soon as I find another couple of hours to myself.

My parents were my parents, who turned into my friends, who turned into my best friends. If I find the time, I will write about my father next.

I encourage you to join Esfand Aashena's call and share your own stories, too. Thank you again for your comments. Have a good weekend everybody!



by yolanda on

A very heart-warming story! You are a giver! I like the last sentence the most:

She never was a burden, my partner in joy, my mother.


That is unconditional love!

I think we should treat our parents the way we want to be treated when we get old and frail!

Thank you for sharing!

Esfand Aashena

Bahram jaan why not write a piece too

by Esfand Aashena on

I had not mentioned my father but he was the patriarch of our large family and very loving and very caring.  His passing was a huge loss to all of us.  He passed away at old age and due to complication with prostate and prostate cancer in later stages.  He too suffered with pain but to the end he was very patient and would hardly complain.  

Part of my mother's agony is his loss since they were with each other for about 60 years and as she says she loved him and her life and misses everything they did together.  I guess she'll never get over his passing. 

Everything is sacred

desideratum.anthropomorphized anonymous000

Nazy jaan, as I was reding this, I thought If Plato

by desideratum.anthropomorph... on

had the luxury of hearing you tell a tale, I suspect he would have been saved from one of his grave losses in granting superiority to ideal forms (philosophy) over arts.  You just have it in you, no matter what the subject is.  Thank you for bringing joy to the reader by sharing what perhaps is so natural to your way of being -- storytelling.

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Very touching and loving. I believe every word of it. I've seen you in action for many years. You give and give and give selflessly.


What courage

by Mehrban on

Faced with the memory of a painful, chronic, and debilitating condition you tell the uplifting story of joy, courage and care.  Both yours and your mother's.  Thank you Nazy for sharing your story and thank you Esfand.


Just wonderful

by bahram9821 on

Nazy Jaan thanks for sharing this wonderful story, I loved it. BTW, I hate the word cortisone, my late father was taking it for a long time, the side effects were horrible.


Well done,

by aghadaryoosh on

Nazy khanoom I enjoyed your memory very much, every word of it to me screemed life, well done and how lucky were all of you to appriciate the time together.Very inspiring.


We Will Never Be as Good as Our Parents!

by Faramarz on

But we will try our best to pay them back for everything that they have done for us!


Thank you Nazy!


What a glorious relationship

by abtin on

Dear Nazy,

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. I am misty eyed and smiling at the joy of this piece.

Thanks again, Abtin

Soosan Khanoom


by Soosan Khanoom on

Nazy that is a sweet thing to say and write about your mom. Almost all Iranian women would do the same as you did for your mother. I am not surprised at all... An Iranian mother by no means is a burden on her Iranian daughter. Of corse there is always some exception but is very rare .....

BUT that is not true when it comes to taking care of their mother in law .... not only they do not take care of her but they do anything possible to not let their husbands even slightly think of doing so. The end result is the elderly house. Of corse there is always some exception but is very rare ..... 

Iranian women are one of a kind when it comes to this double standard ...  at least western women do not consider any exceptions. They send both of them , their own mother and mother in law , to the elderly house .....


Parviz Forghani

Oops! I missed the "Z" My

by Parviz Forghani on

Oops! I missed the "Z"

My apologies


Parviz Forghani

Thanks Nay, Tears in my

by Parviz Forghani on

Thanks Nay,

Tears in my eyes because of:

Touching quality of your sweet memoir of mom and

because such qualities of life are entering to the category of "endangered species" as the digital age rolls down the hill faster much much faster than your beautiful roller coaster.

Esfand Aashena

Nazy jaan thank you for accepting the invitation.

by Esfand Aashena on

You know when we think of our loved ones, whether they're alive and old or passed away, we always remember the good times we remember them at their peak of their lives, we don't remember the pains and suffering in old age and if we do they pale in comparison.  I believe that is a blessing in and of itself and it has to do with the goodness of our loved ones.

As much as we hear and talk about the goodness of our loved ones and how they're always with us, there are those who have left but are not missed by their families, this is especially true in Iran and the way some (mostly men) treat their families.

As for wheelchair, what a nice story.  Now let me tell you mine!  For years I've been trying to buy a wheelchair for my mother but they always make me change my mind.  Wheelchair is the devil!  They also don't want to push it and I believe that reason is more important than the devil itself.

This year I bought one, actually it was a mix walker/wheel chair.  They had brought her father's old broken wheelchair and as you may know they don't throw things out.  I fixed that piece of junk as well!

Anyway, one day we had to go to doctor and I folded the wheelchair and the Pride (car) that came to pick us up, put the walker on the roof rack since the car was too small!  When we got off of the car we had to go 4 steps to get to reception and my poor mother can hardly walk up the stairs.  Then to get to the doctor in 4th floor, we walked up 8 steps to the elevator and then got off 4.5 floor came back down another 8 steps to the doctors office, all while I was carrying the walker and my mother with me!

In Iran handicap care is zero, I take it back, below zero!  Bikes are parked in narrow side walks and even parks have steps instead of ramps!  I may write about this one day in a blog ;-)

Thank you again for sharing. 

Everything is sacred

Multiple Personality Disorder

Storytelling at its best

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

I couldn't wait to get to the last paragraph, and when I did I was in tears for the joy of life.  You are blessed, having loving memories of your parents.

Azadeh Azad

What a remarkable woman

by Azadeh Azad on

Nazy jan,

Thank you for this marvellous piece of writing. I think I'll choose your mom as my next mother in my future reincarnation :-). You have described her and her positively all-encompassing and light presence so well that I feel I have known her all my life. She is certainly an archetype of the good mother; forever alive.

I liked these two parts very much:

"When I look back, all I can remember is light and lightness, laughter and immense fun in her presence. I am aware now that somewhere in between the words and the laughter, I must have brushed her hair and changed her clothes, but I can't really remember the details, they were unimportant." 

"The moving apparatus glided down the hill and the two of us were screaming our heads off with exhilaration and joy, the wind blowing our hair and energizing our smiles. I remember laughing and I remember my mom making noises people would make on a roller coaster! We finally made it to the bottom of the hill in one piece, totally euphoric."



Anahid Hojjati

Very touching Nazy jan

by Anahid Hojjati on

This is such a touching blog. From the pre teen having to fast grow up to you and your mom navigating Berkeley. Thanks for sharing.