A new year lays ahead, and with it, the closing of another chapter that cascades over from our lives. This past one has been filled with tough things, wonderful moments, unexpected love gifts, and trudging through emotional trenches dotted with land mines.
Such is as it is when family is involved. Differing viewpoints, personalities, frames of reference are combined to create a big ball of anxiety in some cases, and enormous connection through love and acceptance in others.
It seems that the more I intentionally attempt to walk in anothers’ shoes, and place myself often times where I don’t wish to be, the more patience and understanding, and empathy comes bursting forward from deep inside the chasm that my earthy body inhabits.
I bought myself Brene Brown’s book,” Dare to Lead.” I really enjoy her perspective, honesty and transparency about living life with vulnerability. She has several good reads in my opinion. “ Braving the Wilderness,” and “Daring Greatly,” are two others that I highly recommend.
She shares and writes with honesty, and integrity, having researched tons of fellow humans on this path called life. Check out her TED talk, “ The Power Of Vulnerability. truly inspiring stuff…
December was a challenging month. Mum was here with me, and her dog, Brody. She often was trying to work through some difficult relational issues, that she couldn’t quite grasp. It created angst in her, and she fretted to understand the whys’ of certain relationships, and how it really hurt her feelings to feel misunderstood in her intentions.
She kept telling me how much she loved her family, and was aghast to think that anyone would question that of her. So many insecurities rose to the surface, and bubbled forth in spirited dialogue.
I tried to reassure her, that we knew that, and that we loved her, and that family relationships have their downs and ups, and personalities clash like giant cymbals sometimes.
Christmas was quiet… my son Zach flew out to visit from Oregon which was so amazing. Mum was so happy to see him. We just enjoyed being in the same time zone together, and sharing real estate under the same roof.
Zach opted to sleep out on my big sheepskin rug , on the area carpet right next to the wood fire. The two dogs were nestled in close, stuck next to each side of him.. This Mamma’s heart was happy. I even ventured out at night just to watch him sleep, content that my boy was in the house again. Such a wonderful Christmas gift…
We lit the fire nearly every day, and the scent of seasoned wood burning, and warming our space created warmth in body and spirit. So many memories of shared fires with family over the years seeped to the surface, and rose up into the air like a welcome fragrance.
What is it about a wood burning fire, indoors, or out that draws us, like moths to the light?
We watch as the bright hues of oranges, reds yellows and blues dance within the confines of the fire place. The crackle, and sizzle of the wood as it emits its’ light, creates a glow that cannot be manufactured in quite the same way through artificial means…. in my humble opinion.
This season was especially hard. There were some decisions being made which were soul searching, and devastating. After much careful thought and contemplation, tears, and prayers, it was felt that it was time for Mum to try “ Memory Living Facility,” at a local retirement residence in close proximity to me.
This is excruciatingly hard…watching someone that you love change in front of your eyes, it feels like your arms are being torn off from your shoulders. It’s like a tornado is enveloping your body, and your parts are pulled up and away, and the scattered debris of your innards are flung out in every direction.
This cuts, and severes a part of you that you don’t think you can withstand, and still keep living.
Trying to do the right and honorable thing for a person, while the inside of your head is screaming, “ no… I don’t want this to be true,” is unfathomable.
Facing the abyss….
This transition from house to a group senior living facility has had multiple bumps in the road.
There has been victories, and defeats, quiet acceptance, and teary hellos, mingled with understanding, and despair. In essence… a roller coaster ride, with white knuckle curves.
Brody has come to visit Mum several times, she loves this. She brushes and brushes him, and he looks adoringly up into her face, and I swear he smiles at her.
She wrapped up her steak in a napkin at dinner the other night, and I tucked it onto my lap, and carried it back to her new house down the hall.
Mum gave him his “treats” once we entered her suite. He was overjoyed, as was she.. a priceless moment.
About a week later I visited, and Brody came to spend the day with her, and her caregiver, Amy. It was a harder day. Mum had a lot of anxiety that day.. she didn’t want to leave her room. She didn’t want to go and dine with the other seniors. She was spiraling.
Several of us at different times kept redirecting her, and attempted to keep the conversation positive. There is a tree right outside her window, so I brought her a bird feeder and seeds, and some binoculars to do some bird watching. She loves the birds.. they make her happy. I like to see her happy. I work at making her happy.. I like to please her.
It hurts my heart to see her cry. This life makes you cry.. a lot. Sometimes there are so many black river droplets falling from my eyes that it looks like a double lane highway.
She went to exercise class the other day, and trivial pursuit…. this made me smile… she is branching out.
As we lay atop her single bed together, holding hands we did leg exercises that she had learned. We listed to hymns, majestically sounding from the nearby CD player, and sang…. more tears.
It’s the simple act of just being with another…
“ If I lay here, if I just lay here, will you lie with me, and just forget the world?”
Lyrics from “ Snow Patrol, song is “Chasing Cars.”
This song always reminded me, and other members of my family…of my dear daughter, Bianca. She was so delighted when you climbed into the bed beside her, and just took the time. Maybe you held her hands, watched cartoons, and giggled together. It didn’t matter.. You were in close proximity, and this was enough. This is living in the here and now. I would sing to her, and she would grin big, and her infectious giggle would heal my aching heart…. for that moment.
It’s the same with Mum. As I lay beside her, there’s no place I’d rather be, than singing hymns and doing leg lifts. This is the good stuff right smack in the middle of the kaos.
She introduces me at dinner as her Mother… which would make me about 160… maybe I look good for my age?
There is a sweet English lady at dinner whose name is Dorothy. We are escorted over to her table, and our dinner salads are brought over to us. Dorothy has a kind face, and speaks in a barely audible voice. She leans way to the left side of her chair against a cushion. She struggles to sit straight.. Dorothy has Parkinson’s disease. This looks and feels so familiar….
She is not defined by her Parkinson’s disease, but this disease is stealing from her defiantly, right as she sits there… disease sucks..
A Russian personal assistance worker comes and attempts to adjust her in her seat. Within moments she is right back as she was.. she has “ assumed the position.”
In front of her sits a fresh slice of apple pie with a generous dollop of custard. She attempts to scoop some onto her spoon, but then her spoon inadvertently has a mind of its own, and she misses the dish entirely, and tries scraping the table.. Her cup of tea sits to her right, and as she picks it up, some of the contents spill soundlessly to the floor.
It is sorrowful to behold. I’m not sure of the protocol. I ask her if she needs assistance? She states, “ I am ok…”
I cannot stay seated a moment longer.. I want her to taste her pie and custard, and enjoy her tea. I plop a bendy straw in her cup, and offer her a few sips. Then I ask if she wants her next bite to be custard, apple pie, or both?
She says..” custard…” so custard it is..
The simple choices, the graceful dignity, of getting to choose..it means a great deal to a person I realize, and never more so than now, in this place, with these precious people.
We may all arrive here…. or some form of hereat some point. We all age, and our parts get worn out, but the love lasts… it’s timeless.. it’s transformative.
From “ Jesus Calling” (author Sarah Young,) “Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus, you are lightened….Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.”