Present Tense

Cracking open…

eggWhat am I learning? That is my new mantra that is barely beating out “what am I feeling?”. I guess as I approach a sort of milestone birthday, it’s about time to begin asking myself some probing questions. I do have a journalism degree, after all.

What I’m learning is that it’s never too late for new reactions and behaviors to blossom; it often just requires a catalyst. The losses and challenges of the past 12 months have cracked me open and stuff like love, patience, empathy and generosity are oozing out and the more it oozes, the bigger the crack becomes.

My dog Chili died almost a year ago and that was a searing pain that brought me right to my knees. Then, my dad died in April and that knocked me completely off my axis. I had no idea that losing a parent could be so disorienting and shocking. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. You probably weren’t either.

Those deaths numbed me, but my mother cracked me open. Seeing her lose her husband and lover and companion of nearly 75 years drove an arrow deep into my heart. She relied on him so completely for her physical and emotional support and then in an afternoon, she was without him. Forever.

My husband and I are childless by choice. I have not regularly had to put someone else’s well being and needs above my own. That’s just an honest assessment. Yes, we’ve taken care of each other over the years. He had cancer. I’ve battle alcoholism, but it’s not the same as caring for a child. Or an elderly parent.

My mother will be 94 in a couple of weeks and the past month has been very difficult for her, with a couple of hospitalizations and now a rehab facility to get her strong enough to return to her assisted living facility. She has needed us in a way that I’ve never felt needed before.

I’ve cut up her food, cajoled her to eat, changed her diaper, helped her dress, undress, brush her teeth, advocated for her care, nagged health care providers, often on weekends. She has at times been so foggy about her circumstances that it scared the crap out of me. She asks the same questions over and over and I’ve patiently answered over and over. I’ve tried to reassure her that she’ll get better and ‘go home’. The hardest was when she woke up and groggily asked me why my dad wasn’t there.

Here’s the deal: I’ve never been patient, I’ve never been all that nurturing (to people…different story with my pets) and I’ve always run away from hard stuff like this. This time, I’m running toward it. Toward her. And I am getting so much out of being with her right now. The love and protection that I feel is nearly overwhelming and I have more clarity on so many things in my life, but the one thing that I am sure of is that we moved back to Michigan for a reason and this is it.

I bought our farm over the course of a weekend, with very little research or thought. I went back to Colorado and told my husband that I wanted to move back ‘home’. We put our house on the market, I informed my co-workers and bosses of my plans and we packed up and moved, even though I loved Colorado and I loved our place in the mountains.  There was no questioning this feeling that we had to go.

Something was compelling me home and I didn’t resist it, even though I didn’t quite understand it.  Now I get it. We spent more time with both of my parents over a six month period than we had in years. We spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with them and my dad got to see our little farm. He was so proud and then, he died and I’ve been here to help my mom transition to life without my dad and eventually to transition to join him.

It’s been so hard and it would have been so much easier to be in Colorado for all of this; far removed from all of the drama and dirty work.  Love shoved me home; love cracked me open like an egg and for that, I’m so grateful.

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

   

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