Wild Horses

June 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is something about watching a child step into adulthood that leaves you with such powerfully conflicted emotion.  You stand and watch and there is nothing else you can do- just stand and watch.   When your children are small everything is so much easier.  Their wants and needs are so much easier to obtain for them, you can gift them so much, so easily.  But then comes that stumbling foal moment where the thing they want conflicts with what you feel is best for them.  But you can gently guide them back.

Then come stronger impossible things, friendships that break, the times they don’t make the team, the times where a boy breaks their heart.  Over the years their view of you changes; you descend from almost godlike parent who they love with a full-bodied  joy to someone worn and worn out a bit behind the time, at moments wise and at others all to fail-able and human, the point where they see you for what you are.  But you try to hold on and give them the direction you can.   And then one morning you wake up and you child has managed to break away almost completely and you see them running toward their own horizons, awkward but beautiful and free and all you can do is stare and thank God that you have come to the point where you can be a place of safety for them, but you know that anything you offer them has to be accepted on their terms.

This is the point where I am with my oldest.  I watch her go out a little farther almost every day, turning 18, high-school graduation,  job hunting, college hunting.  It hurts to know that I am completely unable to help her with these things.   I count myself lucky that she hasn’t picked up that tendency of some teens to emotionally abuse those closest to them – that teenage cruelty of being kind to everyone except your mom and dad on whom is heaped nothing but contempt as they realize that their parents are really just mortals.  Instead she is rather patent with us as her parents.  But even if she did have that rebellious streak we would still have held on this long, and at this point we would still have to let go.  But then I love watching this.  I love watching her go and there is nothing in the world more satisfying then the times she gets things right.  It is probably the oddest feeling in the world.  Some odd half remembered quote from CS Lewis about how love is taking as much joy and delight the achievements of someone else as you would if they were your own.  With children that becomes a bit muddled because it can feel like their victories are your victories and their failures your failures, but neither is the truth.
It would be unfair to pile my own hopes or ambitions onto her.  She is a vastly different person than I am.  So I sit here and watch her step into her moment of independent youth, beautiful in the sunshine of morning and watch her in love with herself, a body too young to ache, a heart still unburdened with the worries of life and I have to step back and just watch.  I remember that moment of explosive, restless, youthful passion and how much I desperately wanted to just be me – free, alive, young and loved.  And I can look back at my mistakes and regrets and know that I am just as incapable of recapturing that in myself as I am incapable of reliving that time through her.  I had my moment in the sun; this moment is her’s.

I love her and love watching her explode away from me into her own life.  And I turn to my younger children and I know, with the utter certainty that I could never really grasp with her that they too will one day set off on their own.  I am an older and wiser mother than I was with her.  But I know I will make totally new mistakes with each of them.  They will each come to the place where they see me too well, where they know how I have failed them.  And they will take off to their own adventures, wherever God’s will will blow them.  I will stand here and marvel at their beauty and hope that they always remember when they need me I am here waiting, and watching and wild horses couldn’t drag me away from them.

I have to laugh at myself

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, I have been totally overwhelmed the past two weeks and have been seriously remiss in my blogging efforts.   I am still working on my 40 bags but I haven’t been updating as well as I would like.

But I have to say it has been really fun hearing about how many people are doing the 40 trash bag thing this year.   I guess it has been sent out to a bunch of email lists and has been on a few forums.  I hope everyone who is doing it gets something valuable out of it and has a better Lent for the letting go of stuff.

Sarah is four

February 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hard to believe my sweet little baby is such a big girl.  But she is:

Sarah and her cake

Sarah, four candles and a pink cake.

Advice to Myself

January 20, 2010 § 2 Comments

I was thinking this morning about Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and this scene:

I suppose this describes me very well.  I give myself awfully good advice — my follow through is not as admirable.

I was thinking about this a bit this morning and I came to a couple of conclusions:

Stick with what is working, change what doesn’t, and  don’t change what does work in an attempt to fix everything.

I have a terrible habit of doing this.  Kyle called me on it last week when I sat down to rework the house work thing.  The past couple months had side tracked me and things had built up and chaos was starting to rule again.  I pulled out a piece of paper and starting thinking out-loud about changing things, routines and all that and he told me to stop.  We had a plan, it was working I just needed to go back to what worked.  I didn’t need to rework the whole thing.

Overall – A small change for the better that lasts is better than a temporary big change for the better.

I am sure there are some exceptions to this, but I know that the small changes that I make that stick do me more good in the long run than big changes that are only temporary.  I suppose enough small changes add up to big changes and that is even better.

I shouldn’t let myself get discouraged by the fact that I have to “start over”.

I find it kind of alarming that sometimes everything seems to slip all at once, but starting over is always the better option than just ignoring that fact that things are off  center again.   Starting over is the opportunity to go back to doing what works and to make small changes to the things that don’t.

A Reflection on Racism

January 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

Last June I posted a bit of a rant related to racism and homeschooling.   Last week I had occasion to mentally visit the topic again and this morning I have time to write about it… fitting for MLK day I guess.

My Hannah is eight years old.  She is the first of my children to have been homeschooled from the start.  Last week she and I were talking and somehow the conversation wound around to racism.  Hannah really had no idea what racism is, it never occurred to her that people would think less of someone based on the color of their skin or where that person’s ancestors had come from.   “That’s stupid”, was her honest assessment of the very idea.

The all come to him

Christ and the children of the world.

I couldn’t help but contrast this to my oldest daughter’s,  Ashley’s, experience which I wrote about last June:

When schools do try to teach diversity it is frequently out of context or worse full of politically correct social agenda.  I remember my daughter coming home from third grade heart broken one day, “mommy,” she asked sadly, “Why are white people so mean to black people?”  I was floored.   Where do you even start with that?  Her class had been immersed in Black History month for about six weeks.  Story after story about the horrible meanness of white people.  She had learned what no child should ever learn, that something was wrong with people like her and by extension with herself because of her skin color. We were able to point out that while some people were bigots that bigotry was a product of education and environment not of her ethnicity and that our family had several friends and even relatives with a variety of racial backgrounds and skin tones.  Do I trust the schools to do a great job teaching my children about the beauty and diversity of race, creed and culture?   In short, the answer is no.

The experiences of my daughter’s couldn’t be different and I think they illustrate something profoundly wrong in how our society deals with issues of race.

Some people would read the two stories of my daughters and be sure that Hannah was missing something and that Ashley was better off.  They would re-spin the two antidotes and say that Ashley came home with a heartfelt understanding of race issues, that she had learned how cruel and unjust society is and would be better equipped to go out and try to rectify the errors of the past, while Hannah is sheltered and unaware, that she is part of the problem since she isn’t sensitized to the struggles of minorities in society and unaware of the bias that she benefits from.

In my mind Hannah has escaped the brainwashing.  She doesn’t see herself as better because of her race, she doesn’t see others as inferior based on their race, she doesn’t even see race — she just sees skin-tone and that only as a description no more an indicator of status than hair-color.   Ashley’s paradigm had been shifted to see RACE, to see a victim and a villain, skin color meant more to her than a descriptive quality, it carries with it a crippling of the historic victim and a hobbling  of the historic villain.   I may be totally wrong, but I do not think this is what Dr Martin Luther King had in mind when he spoke of his dream.  To be judged only on the content of one’s character is much closer to Hannah’s colorblind world view than the painfully pan-tone aware view that Ashley had foist upon her in a public school classroom.

There is nothing empowering about believing that you are a member of a “victim class”.  In college in my required women’s studies classes I often found myself taking the minority view that women are not the poor hapless victims at the hands of evil men, especially white, privileged men, and that they had instead a varied history that reflected more than the monotonousness world view presented in my college classes.   I could actually get away with speaking my mind on this subject in class because, being female, I was free to reject the role of victim.  The men in my class were not so fortunate – the villain is not allowed to reject the role, no matter how removed from them by actual history or circumstance.  If a man in the class were to point out that it was women for instance who put their daughters into corsets or to point out that in a many cultures women and the children benefited from most of the double standards (women and children first in an emergency)  he would be soundly put in his place a a perpetrator of the horrible male hegemony.  Sexism is a charge that is hard to slough off, racism is worse.

Over the last year I have seen one thing very promising coming from our current president’s historic role as the first American President of African extraction.  We are quickly getting over the villain thing.  The first half of the year was peppered with accusations of racism against those who opposed the president’s agenda.  Don’t like the government handing out money hand over fist — you must be racist.  Opposed nationalization of health-care — again you are a racist.  The tea-party movement was labeled racist and the media was so enamored with that line of attack that MSNBC actually cropped a shot of an gun tooting protester to hide his dark skin – while the presenter prattled on about the raciest, gun-packing, protesters.  And people started to question the whole idea of racism as a political motivation.  They could say in their hearts, “I don’t have a thing against my neighbor who is black (or Asian, or Native American)   where do these people get off calling me racist because I don’t want to government in control of my healthcare.”

There were people who were excited to vote for Mr Obama because it was their chance to prove to the world, to themselves, to history, that America has grown beyond a racist past and that we no longer need to be hobbled and burdened by the roles of villain and victim — when the left and the media went right on playing the old race card it felt like something of a betrayal.  But of course they have only illustrated the classic problem of  victimology.   When wrong doing is assigned as a function of birth it can never be made right because it was unjust to begin with.    Little children should not be segregated into groups of historic victims and historic villains.  We should each be held accountable for our own actions, not the actions or circumstances of  our assumed ancestors.  There is no way my children will be able to compensate my neighbor’s children for historic racial injustices.  First off my children’s ancestors were not the slave owners of American History and the neighbor’s emigrated from Sudan less than two year ago.   A bit flippant of an assessment, perhaps,  but also an illustration of the reality of today.

The civil right’s movement of Dr King was working to address actual wrongs.  Wrongs in the enforcement of the law, inequalities in educational opportunity and civil discourse.  Moving onward, moving towards something better requires  a letting go of the past.  The wrongs of history can not be set right, only learned from.  The desperate attempt, even well intentioned, of rectifying past wrongs with present injustice can never set those past wrongs to right.  It could only perpetuate a circle of oppression and oppressor with the roles changing but the tragedy always the same.   No little girl with dark skin should ever come home from school feeling like she isn’t smart enough, or good enough or pretty enough because her skin is dark.  Not little girl with light skin should ever come home from school thinking she is bad, or her family is evil, or that she owes some debt she can’t repay because she was born with light skin.  Far better if every little girl would have to have the completely foreign idea of racism explained to them and then be able to wrinkle up their nose and declare the whole thought of judging people on such petty things as “stupid”.

Priorities

January 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Afternoon Pastimes

Afternoon Pastimes - Paul Alfred de Curzon

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of priorities, especially about understanding what my own priorities really are.

The defining of what my priorities should be  is very simple:  My relationship to God and my vocation as wife and mother.   In the basic  my faith, my marriage, my children, and my home.  Anything that negatively affects those things is, in the long run, detrimental to my happiness in this world and the next.

I have been reading 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  It is a good read with some terrific insight into the differences between vocation, career and job and it is a good and useful book especially for someone who is in need of a career change, but who doesn’t know how to break out of the rut they are in with their current career.  Mr Miller spends some time talking about seven areas of your life: Career, financial, social, family, physical, personal development, and spiritual, and the need for success and balance in all these areas.  I could easily quibble about that – religious life being an example where these priorities are very different, yet religious life is  rich and satisfying  for those who embrace it.  But it was interesting to me that I was reading about priorities – I think God answers many of my prayers with little bumps.   If I am praying for direction one thing will be repeating over and over — in conversations with friends, things I am reading, things I find online, news stories, random and seemingly disconnected and after about 20 little hints I see the pattern.

We went through a lot in 2009.  I need to set aside some time to ponder my priorities and get myself focused on the most important aspects of my life.

House cleaning.

January 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, not really house cleaning, but definitely blog cleaning.   I have been keeping this blog since February of 2007 and I haven’t really done much maintenance on it.  So I am going through a round of catching up and cleaning up and figuring out what direction I want to go with the blog next.

In the end it is all ok

January 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Granny and Grandpa - October 13, 1943 Bud and Betty Hahn, their wedding. She was 19 and he was 24.

My grandmother entered the hospital on November 16th  suffering from intestinal distress, vomiting and abdominal pain.  She had a twisted bowel that was operated on that Friday,  six inches of necrotic intestine had to be removed.  The hospital is horrible for my grandmother. Her lack of short term memory creates a situation of reoccurring distress as she realizes that she no longer remembers where she is, or why she is there.   The daughter of tough Scottish immigrants and a child of the depression she was taught early and well to not complain, protest or make trouble for anyone – she won’t ask for pain medication, ring for the nurse or inconvenience  the staff in any way – even at the cost of her own discomfort.  The staff doesn’t always catch onto this fact and with no one to sit and encourage her to ask for additional pain medication or attempt to eat she fails to provide even the smallest comfort for herself.

It is distressing to see her so thin and frail and ill.  Things change  quickly – day to day there is a switch in plans. Over the course of two weeks one surgery turns into three, hopes of grandma returning to her private foster-care placement are abandoned.  Part of this switching of plans has to do with the fact that my grandmother’s condition is hard to predict, at 86 she can’t recover from something a quickly as a younger person would, she is weaker still because of her failure to eat which also slows healing and in turn opens her up to more chances for opportunistic infection.  On top of this there is a continual disconnect between what is communicated between the hospital and the care-facility she has been living in.  One day she can return to where she has been, the next day she needs more rehabilitation. Differing opinion from family about what the treatment goals should be  – my mother has a difficult time accepting that her mother will probably not ever fully recover – she seems to hear what she wants and ends up asking for treatments that are not suited to my grandmothers condition.  I spent some time talking to the doctors and nurses, the hospital social worker, my husband and my father and, most difficultly, my mother, but at last we all got onto the same page and were able to make the decision to stop curative care and pursue palliative care.

One of the social workers I spoke with remarked that choosing this route is always a difficult decision.  But it really wasn’t.   I don’t think the choice was hard.  Like so many “crisis” choices the decision itself was very easy.  Of the options presented — this was the best choice, the best option, the only real option.  The difficulty lays in the afterward.  Those moments in the late evening sitting on the sofa in my room with a glass of wine wondering about the possibility of alternatives that in the light of day and without the leisure to hope for the impossible were not allowed to push themselves forward.  The hope of hanging on for a miracle – a miracle but  to what end? When the thought is carried through to the logical conclusion to even pray that my grandmother would live through this was almost cruel.  The best to be hoped for would that she would once again be living in her care-facility with memories slipping away daily — blowing away like the autumn leaves .   The best would be her mourning the loss of grandpa as she had for the past 14 years waiting for the day she would see him again.   All the while in pain from her surgery, her hip, her aging body.  How could anyone ask this dear woman who has given so much to us to carry this horrible burden farther?

I am not so naive to think that suffering and pain do not work to good ends in God’s wisdom, but while I might pray for the grace and fortitude to see through my own pain – my earnest prayer for my grandmother is that God grant her peace and freedom from suffering.  Prayer, there comes a point where our medicines become torture and we  need to set those things down and pray.  There is a place where only prayer can help and only death can heal us – rebirth us to heaven where hope to meet in a sun filled morning that one who suffered so much for us, Christ.  He will known, understand intimately, the pain we suffer and he will hold us close and wipe away all tears.  This becomes the prayer when the prayer for healing stops and the prayer for heaven begins.

The choice to go with palliative care changed the way medicine worked with my grandmother.  The catechism says: “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. ”  This acceptance provides so much relief for my grandmother.   No longer did the kind physical therapist force her to stand and take two or three excruciating, shuffling steps.  Uncomfortable monitoring equipment was removed.  The rules limiting the visits of my children disappeared and they were all able to come and see their beloved granny again.  A hand-made quilt took the place of impersonal white hospital linens and a cart of refreshments magically appeared in the hospital room every evening for family.

We were blessed that one of the nurses working with my grandmother, Linda, was a good Catholic lady, a convert, as was my grandmother and as am I.  When the priest was called for last rites he was unable to arrive before I had to return home.  The next evening Linda was able to share with me how lovely it was.  My grandmother had awoken when the priest arrived, she had been awake and coherent and responsive.  Since I wasn’t able to be there personally it meant so much to have someone who understood the rite be able to express to me how spiritual an experience it had been for my grandmother.  My grandmother’s lack of short term memory robbed her of the ability to communicate such things to me herself.  It was simply a blessing that someone was there to pass the experience on to me for safekeeping.

After the weekend my grandmother is transferred to a skilled nursing facility.   My parents and I meet there with the hospice nurse from Providence and she explains their services.  Their goal for the patient is pain management and they are there to support the family in dealing with the transition of their loved one from life to death.  Talking with the social workers and nurses I begin to see how much of a process death can be, how it is a real transition in the sense of moving from one stage of the soul to the next.  We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come.  For us death is not a “dead-end” it is a doorway, beyond it there is more. After three weeks in the hospital my grandmother is moved to a skilled nursing facility.

The hospital was much more pleasant in ways — in my heart I want her to go back to her old care facility with the spirited Romanian immigrant who loves my grandmother.  I  find myself sick with a head cold for the first week after grandma is moved  so for almost a week I don’t see her.  I feel guilty “abandoning” her in that gray place, but  I certainly don’t wish to burden her with a cold on top of her other physical complaints.  When the nurse calls and tells me that my grandmother has begun to decline I have to see her.

Kyle and I spent the evening on Tuesday with her.  She was happy and feeling in good spirits.  We talked about fishing and lambs, knitting and the children, we talked about my grandfather and how much we loved one another.   Kyle and I each held one of her hands and visited.  We gave her kisses as we left and she smiled and said “Such happy, happy memories.”   When we got home Kyle commented on how tightly she had squeezed his hand when we said we had to leave and I told him that when she gave him a kiss she was giving one to my grandfather too.  In some way all those beautiful memories of her long and happy life had come unmounted to time and floated together all equally present and all equally precious.   All the memories were now and all the love in her whole life was with us right then in that moment and the moment was all that mattered.

Memories are one of the few earthly treasures that we can take with us.  Each precious reflection connects us to each other and to ourselves.  Memory of prayers answered, miracles experienced and blessing given us from heaven build and strengthen our relationship with God.  He draws us closer to him with our own stories, both the good and the bad.  He uses it all for our good.

That night I dreamed of my grandfather and a cabin in the mountain near a crystal blue lake in the meadow.  I could hear children laughing and could see sunshine-golden hair playing in tall grass.  They were waiting for grandma, my grandfather, the babies we lost before we had a chance to hold them… they are there.  It is not quite heaven just the fringes, heaven is still a short distance away where the white city of God gleams in endless morning.  This is just a dream- a dream of something comforting, some whisper that everything is good with those I have loved and lost.  They are there together waiting for her.

The next evening is so different.  My grandmother can no longer speak; she is waiting, slipping.

The next morning  I spoke on the phone with hospice and the nurse was surprised at how swiftly she had declined.  That evening I went to the care facility immediately after dinner, somehow I knew even before I left home that I would be there until she passed.  Kyle seemed to sense this as well and urged me to take all the time there I could.  So I could be there when she needed me.  The only thing I can compare it to was being at Serenity’s birth.  A birth is also a transition, work, important and sacred.  It is part of god’s plan for our experience and for our ultimate union with him.  It is inescapable.   When you share this with someone, when you are there when someone you care about goes through this it disconnects you from the mundane for a short time.   It can go well, as it did at both the birth and death I have attended or it can be difficult, though I can not imagine it ever being easy.

When I arrived Granny’s breathing was labored my mother had stopped by on her way home and asked the nurses to give her oxygen.  There was a definite change.  The waiting had ended and this was work.  All I could do was sit and hold her hand and rub her shoulder with lotion.  Prayer, again it came round to prayer.  I found myself singing “Let all mortal flesh keep silent.” It just seemed the only thing to be in my head, but right there with only the sound of her breathing and the pump and hum of the oxygen machine it made sense that silence was imminent.  I told her about my dream and the beautiful valley and grandpa waiting for her on the wide deck overlooking the lake with the fish jumping and the curious deer at the edge of the woods and I asked her to look after my babies and I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her and she was gone.  And the room seem small but at the same time something sacred  had occurred there. And I know that angels were leaving and that my grandmother would soon be able to be home.  I could almost her my grandfathers’ voice welcoming his “little bride” just like he used to call her when he would come up behind her in the kitchen for a hug and a kiss.  And all is good with those I have loved and lost.

Memory

December 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

My grandmother has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now.  She had and obstructed bowel that had to be surgically repaired, then the incision wasn’t healing properly and last night she had to have it operated on again to repair a small hole that was developing in her abdominal wall.   I have spent a good deal of time in the hospital  just hanging out with her.  She suffers from Alzheimer’s/dementia and is 86 years old.

Last month I was reading  A Child Called Noah and A Client Called Noah by Josh Greenfeld, which describes his family’s struggles dealing with their autistic son.  One of the lines that stick with me was Greenfeld’s description of his feelings with Noah.  He describes how, with a normal child when you do things together, there is the delicious feeling that one is storing up memories that will be pulled out in future years and enjoyed again and again.  With Noah there was not that feeling for Mr Greenfeld.  He felt that those things that happened with Noah were felting and vanished, there would be no echo of memory in the future of good times with a beloved father.  Not knowing Noah it is hard to say how accurate that view is, I know with Rachel, who is roughly at the same “place” on the autism scale as Noah, it is not that case that she doesn’t remember, it is just that time seems somehow less anchored for her.  Her lack of language doesn’t equal an inability to recall events, enjoy the moment or even anticipate something she desires, it just makes it more difficult for her to express those abstractions of memory, desire and hope.

It is very easy, since Rachel’s experience of time and events is somewhat “off” to say things like “Well, we will do Rachel’s birthday on Saturday because she doesn’t get that the 10th not the 14th is her birthday.”   And this is true.  Rachel is more than happy to celebrate a birthday or a holiday on an alternate day.  Her sense of anticipation doesn’t extend to checking the calendar and as long as cake is eaten, candles are lit and “Happy birthday” is sung the actual day doesn’t matter so much.  But her inability to anchor the memory or talk about it later doesn’t rob the event of significance.   It is still important.  A fact testified to by the way that Rachel is slave to routine, there must be cake eaten, candles lit and “Happy Birthday” sung in order for it to be a “Birthday.”  Rachel is very much a creature of the moment.  I hope that someday Rachel and I will meet in Heaven and share what all these things meant to us both.

My grandmother’s memories have lost their anchor.  She doesn’t know if it is 1958, 1985 or 2002.  She remembers people and relationships but there is no timeline.  For her it is perfectly sensible that she is staying with neighbors in the town she left in 1968 while talking to me about my daughter born in 2001. Her short term memory is most horribly effected.  She will not remember this evening that I was with her last night, she will be just as impressed with the sweater I am knitting for Hannah as she was the last 12 times she saw it and she will not remember what her surgery was for, how long she will need to recover or where she will go once she is discharged – we will talk about those things every 45 minutes or so.

If no one familiar is with her my grandmother not only loses her sense of time, but she seems to lose much more.  Paranoia and fear set in with the constant parade of the unfamiliar. The nurse has no place in her long term memory and with no short term memory granny has no way of placing the hospital staff into her current experience.  The staff is more than strangers, they are people who seem like they should be familiar, they call her by name and know details about her life, yet granny has no memory of having seen them before – this makes them seem threatening.  Especially in the evening when coupled with “sun-downing”  this lack of anything familiar aggravates the  “normal” emotional effects of Alzheimer’s and granny spirals down into a paranoid, depressed place where everyone loved and familiar has abandoned her and left her alone in a strange fog of unconnected experience. In the morning though the terror of the night before is gone, lost and unconnected to any memory.

It is very tempting  to say it doesn’t matter if someone is there or not because she will not remember.  But is memory the judge of what is important or does the importance of our actions lie in the moment as experienced?  Duty, that sense that she is my grandmother and I must be there for her, gives me a firm kick and says,  “go sit with her tonight because being there is what is important”.   Being there gives me a sense of importance in a way, a feeling that I am doing something worthwhile and somewhat noble.  It allows me to work through the complicated issues with my mother – I can very clearly see that it isn’t “just me” that falls second or third on her priorities, but  all relationships fall somewhat lower than prime in her priority list — where career is number one — and I can comfort myself, polish my somewhat bent halo, and note well and again that I am not doing what mom does.    I can’t help but  remember reading in psychology the perverse theory that all good things we do are in fact, no matter how unpleasant they might seem, actually attempts to gratify some internal need.  The martyr  proves their faith and fulfills their hopes in God even to death;  death is in fact more palatable than forsaking a faith in which they have invested so much of their self-concept.   C.S. Lewis muses on the “mother” in “The Great Divorce” where he speaks of the danger of a “mother-love” that becomes its own idol, the mother who loves through a sense of possession – that the child she claims to want only the best for becomes an expression of her own desire to feel needed, wanted and loved.

So, being human my motives aren’t pure, they cant be.   How can I ever completely separate the corporal work of mercy, visiting the sick,  from wondering if sitting with my grandmother is as much about storing up “karma”, setting up an example and expectation in my children that this is what family does? Will they internalize what the see me doing so that, at some point in the future, they will feel duty kicking them to come spend time with their aged mother?  Part of me doesn’t want to disappoint my grandfather, who passed away in 1994  – does he worry about his “little-bride” all alone at night? Is he glad that I am there?   Do angels sit with me and wait in this strange place, not quite in the Valley of Death but approaching it?  Will she look back when she is on the other side and think well of me?  While I am definitely there for her, I am also there for me and the hope that what I do is pleasing to God, my grandfather, my children and to the person I am meant to be but am not quite yet.

In the end none of my internal wanderings and even struggles  really matters — what matters is the current moment and the experience that we all are going through right now.   It doesn’t matter if she remembers last night, or Sunday, or who her nurse is or even where or when she is.  Granny needs a familiar face, a hand to hold, someone to hunt down a cup of ice or the nurse or adjust a pillow — most of all she needs someone to anchor her to her own experience.   Experience is more important in this sense than memory, for granny right now they are unconnected. In a way the memories are really mine.  They are really her’s also, but for the moment they can’t be her’s,  they are just mine and I hold onto them for her and I both in the hope and expectation that at some point we can share them again.

The edge of summer

September 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I made up a big batch of tomato sauce.  I used the tomatoes from my parent’s garden and stewed them down most the day then ran the sauce through the food mill.  The resulting sauce is really lovely.  Last week I put up some peaches and this week I hope to get the pesto up.   Saturday we will be going down to the cabin for a couple days.  This is something I look forward to every year.

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