[I wrote this last Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, with the intention of submitting it as a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers. Well, my day and the week to follow were much too stressful and this simple post did not happen. Lucky me, it is Tuesday again, so here goes....]
Here I am in South Carolina, to support my father and mother as he covers from knee replacement surgery and she continues her dementia decline. Whew. This is work.
The parallels between my mother and toddlers are not lost on me.
Except that she will only get younger, more incapable.
Where is the joy in this?
I was on the phone trying to change my flight, to stay a little longer, a call that required nearly 100 percent of my focus. I am on my cell phone, when the house phone rings. I cannot go to it. I ignore it, mentally begging the ringing to stop, as I continue my negotiating with the airline. I hear my mother answer the house phone.
Mom appears in the doorway, her hand on her hip, a scowl on her face.
Coincidentally, the airline puts me on hold and I am able to ask,
"Mom, is there something wrong?"
"So, you are going to talk on the phone when I do?"
"I answer the phone and you do, too?"
I realize she is angry because she thinks I am carrying on a conversation on the same phone line that she had been on - that I have not trusted her to answer the phone on her own. But these are two separate phone lines!
I see that at this precise moment, she is aware of her declining skills - and frustrated and angry.
I distract her with something else, sweetly asking,
"Mom, will you hand me that cup of tea?,"
pointing to it on the counter.
Mom smiles and gets it for me. She has forgotten about the phone, her frustration is erased.
I think about how essential it is,
for all of us,
to feel able,
to feel that we are contributing.
Whether we are three or eighty-three, we need tasks that stretch us, that give a sense of purpose.
This is a bittersweet time, but I am still learning and reflecting.