I opened the door and swept my shoes over the mat and shook the drops of rain off of my coat. She was sitting in a chair in my den, the television on, the screen blue and blank. Mom was clutching the remote in her hands. Looking at it as if it was going to wake and speak to her. Her face showing a mix of frustration, confusion and sadness.
I said, “Hi” and asked what she was up to. She mustered a token smile and replied, “Oh, nothing much.” I asked if she was having trouble and she nodded her head. Mom had been sitting there for the better part of an hour or so, hoping that pressing a combination of buttons might miraculously mix and find a channel, any channel interesting enough to stay with. She was afraid to mess with this device for fear of pushing the wrong button and losing connection. It had happened before. It had happened again.
The look on her face told a story. Her eyes spoke volumes of her current lot. In these later years she has less independence and more challenge. More fears and less possibilities. Ironically, she is one of the most positive people I have ever known. Optimism’s reality can be squelched or at least derailed for a time by the body and the mind’s loss.
And here am I…frustrated from time to time at her inability to get past it, or get over it, or make a different choice. Who the hell am I to dare get mad or frustrated at her for those things that swell and choke out so much of what was.
We children can sometimes deny time’s affect. Life is this majestic sea that, with all of it’s mystery and beauty, also erodes the land’s edges.
I am a student of empathy and wonder if I am the least empathetic with those I love the most. I chase possibilities and hope while cursing mortality’s riddle.
Within the last two years she has lost the privilege of driving, had a knee replaced, suffered from arthritis in her back, has seen the pressure of her blood rise and fall like tides, has struggled with deteriorating vision, and has had memories leave and return almost at their own will.
With all that, still smiling. Asking about MY life and work and love. Grateful for most every moment. Nostalgic but still speaking of dreams for the future. How would I be in the same circumstances? How will I be in those circumstances?
I watch silently from a hallway on this Christmas Eve morning. She sits and stares at her crossword puzzle book or at the paper or the television. Turner Classic Movies or The Weather Channel or Joyce Meyer. Some curious mix of living in the past and anticipating the days ahead.
I have so much control over what, when, how, and where I do things. My choices remain seemingly infinite at this decimal of life. I have health and good work and means. My challenges are significant, but I am able to fight them…or negotiate them. What if I couldn’t? I don’t know the feeling that surrounds trying to force a body or a mind to do what it wont.
Tony Robbins can’t motivate you to remember what happened only moments ago when it chooses to leave. Charles Stanley can’t pray you through a body that won’t run with you again. There is only so much a jungle fruit or herb remedy can do to reverse the outer layer’s signs.
Life changes. We adapt. We focus on less, but with more intent. We make choices…a proverbial fight or flight. Some are good fighters and good flyers at heart, their wings clipped, if you will.
Determined that she will fly again. She might need help getting altitude and then be more of a glider than a jet. Now leaving this metaphorical jaunt to say this… I love you. I am grateful for having the privilege of spending all these years with you on the same planet. I wish proximity had been more kind. Sis and I will tow you to a higher place and be a part of your gliding for years to come. We begin, again, now.
5 thoughts on “Sean’s Journal: Gliding in the Sunset”
You left me in tears as I remembered my mother. A strong mother that was my rock, my hiding place, the place one goes for comfort from all of life’s hardships. A mother that I too watched struggle in the latter part of her life. Oh how I miss her so. I watch my best friend and her mother who is 70 something. I tell her to be patient because before you know it, she will be gone and you will wish you could get frustrated with her just one more time.
Sean, Words so beautiful! My parents are both still living. My father with a sharp mind and memories intact, but heart failing, and legs that don’t carry him far before pain sets in. My mother with a strong heart, but mind not so sharp and memory failing. I live states away and notice the changes when I visit. I am touched by the words of a loving son. RHS1978.
Funny how the body seems to exploit its own greatest vulnerabilities. Like a quorum that chooses the heart or the mind or the extremities or the layers and decides what fails and what recovers. A perverse and so natural mystery, eh? Thanks for taking time to join this dissuasion, Suzy.
It was beautifully written and you are a true writer! You captured me with the first few sentence. I am not sure if I was luck for me, or if I was merely spared by having both parents die with 3 months of one another when I was barely 30. Now looking back, it was a blessing. When I see and hear of my friends and work peers’ struggles with their frail and elderly parents, I thank GOD my struggles are over. No worrying about them getting lost, starting a fire by attempting to cook, or merely thinking I am a stranger.. I don’t have to stress or worry that my mom or dad will no longer remember me. They told me they loved me and me them. Just so many more years to live without their loving embraces and words of wisdom.
Love you, love dear Patti. Beginning the glide with my mom at 83 now…my heart is with you both.