Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Growing Pains

The past few days have not been business as usual.

Going upstate to see the family was different this weekend.

My mom fell in and needed to be taken to hospital in an ambulance, or as I call it per Law & Order, 'the bus.' I called my brothers to join me at the hospital, which they and their wives did unselfishly for six hours.

After minimal treatment and discharge papers, Mom came home, and I am thrilled to announce she is indeed fine.
More water, more leg elevation and follow ups NOT including a cardiologist, just her PCP.

While waiting for the ambulance to come, which it did in ten minutes, I found myself asking, "...is this how it ends ? ...is this what it's like ? "

I had a few quiet moments wondering if it was her time to go, and if I had really thought about it. Life with out my mom; her sage, her experience, he input, (welcome or not), her unfaltering love, her neurosis about locking doors, turning off lights and for the love of God taking the tea kettle off the stove.

Was I ready, or had I thought about not hearing one of her Uncle George stories, her Cuba-while-Dad-was-in-the-service stories ? All this rushed through my head as I waited with her, looking at her pallor, feeling a strong, but slow pulse, and eliciting responses that took a long time to come.
But they came.
She responded.
The Med technicians came.
The oxygen came.
And then she answered the questions.
Dismissed going to the hospital and announced she had to use the lou.

It wasn't her time to go.
Not on Sunday.
Not with the Jets in the quarter finals.
Not in the middle of winter where she can still see the fleeting colors of birds.
Not before her garden was abloom with perennials and what ever other annuals I could sneak in.

It wasn't her time to go, but, just as some innocence had been lost when I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, a little more of that wide eyed wonder ebbed away over the long weekend as I took the role of advocate for my mom's care in a strange place where she couldn't see all the different people around her and couldn't hear what was being said about and for her.

I did things and answered questions that adult children have to do for their elderly parent/s. I assumed the role of caregiver without hesitation, but with the stark realization that this is what is necessary now.

This is one of those benchmarks that I am both lucky to have, in that my mom has lived to be nearly 85; and that I, along with my siblings, are responsible to have - to take care of the woman who has always taken care of us, from near or far; sometimes very far, indeed.

So I go to bed tonight in my Manhattan apartment knowing she is as well as she was last week, with support all around. I am truly not worried, but more aware of what I have had for a long time and what I will lose when she is gone. But until then, we banter on the phone, cheer for the red team, discuss food - now we are going gluten free, and giggle about cats and birds and chipmunks and farm markets.

I don't know how long she has. I don't know how long anyone has - I don't know what I am having for breakfast, but, I do know that I am the woman I am today because she taught me more than how to make a perfect pie crust and how to cut and sew a pattern; she taught me to be my own person in the face of adversity and, "to thine own self be true."

The Betty - she really is something else.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Decade !

As dark falls on the first new day of the year, I am thankful for the opportunity to make a good first impression upon it.

I had a chance to really look at myself and my behaviors and their consequences/rewards today, and it was really eye opening. I was reminded in a most opportune moment that "...to do something the same way and expect different results..." was truly crazy. And in that moment, I think I grew up a little. While disappointed in the realization that real results require real work I figured out some very obvious things about life. I reflected on them on the way home.

Simply put, the way we live, communicate and carry on is a lot different today than it was ten years ago.

We are not only in a time of heightened security, we are subsequently in a time of heightened insecurity. International plane rides not withstanding, we may fear for our jobs, our privacy and our understanding of our rights and responsibilities. This not only changed aft 9/11 but has subsequently eroded into a complete turn around about everything.

While gains have been made in technology, specifically communications, why is it people are not talking to each other ? We text, we email and seem to avoid eye to eye, hand to hand, and sometimes, heart to heart contact. We applaud the components of accountability on a project, while sidestepping the process of making it a successful endeavor; thus more of a "gotcha" rather than, "great job, fulfilled as or beyond required." While electronic gadgets and extended hours and online shopping seemingly should make more time for "other things," it's harder to have time to meet with people, grab a drink or coffee, or just hang out for a game night at home with Monopoly.

Everyone seems so busy with all of the conveniences in hand, shouldn't we have more to show for it ?

Today I sent out a text blast to about a dozen people wishing them Happy New Year. Now I have decided instead to call each one and say it to the in my happy voice ! Really, hadn't I better walk the talk ? Be the change I want to see ?

So I am deducing that a telephone call today is like what a letter was thirty years ago; something that took some time and forethought that made the receiver feel really good.

Maybe that is what the next decade holds; small acts of making others feel good simply doing the thing that takes just a moment longer. I don't know; I'll give it a whirl and let you know how it goes.

And by the way, Happy New Year.