On Shining Lights
Yesterday was one of those days where you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Not out of any big act of heroism, but rather, because that’s all you know to do. Keep moving forward, no turning back, no stopping along the way.
It began with a phone call from my friend, John, telling me they were prepping him for the surgery that had been moved from yesterday. I was on my way to an early physical therapy appointment for my shoulder, something that I am trying to maintain through caring for Mom. Sweet Dan stepped right up, telling me he would go sit with Wayne until I could get there, even though he is slammed at work. I married a man who knows what it means to be a good friend.
John was in surgery for almost three and a half hours. Wayne and I had many moments of seriousness, but also lots of laughter, a go-to defense mechanism for both of us. Wayne is the kind of person who is always doing for others- both human and animal- a man of such great heart. Dan and I will always stand by these two men who are like brothers to us. We have all been through so much together since we met several years ago when they first became friends and confidants with Mom. Wayne and I stood on either side of John’s bed after surgery, holding his hands, telling him all would be okay. It was touching. It was heart wrenching. It was life.
I left the hospital late in the afternoon, ran by the house to let the dogs out, and then dashed to St. Martin’s to check on Heavy D. She was so happy to see me, wanting news about John, and wanting to share the large stack of cards from her Space People, telling me that St. Martin’s was pretty surprised, finally realizing they had a celebrity living with them. She sounded so out of breath, but wanted to record a thank you to people for sending so many sweet cards. They lift her spirits like nothing else. She asked for a sip of water afterwards, and then all hell broke lose.
She began choking, looking wild-eyed, grabbing her dentures out of her mouth. I had her raise her arms in the air and then ran into the hall calling for help as she gasped frantically for air. People came running and the room became a flurry of chaotic action. I stood helplessly by, wondering if this was when I was going to lose my mother. Please not yet…my heart was pounding so hard I was sure they could hear it down the hall.
Finally, they were able to get her breathing evened out and calmed down, and it was determined that she needed thickening agents in all of her liquids. The speech therapist would also work with her on swallowing issues, which I have now learned, become more problematic as we age. They gave Mom an oxygen treatment, and I had to tell her to breathe and not talk several times. She always tells me she has verbal diarrhea (followed by, “As your dad would day”). It seems to be on overdrive right now, with every staff person, nurse, and therapist becoming ‘victim’ to Dorothy Tales. She is precious.
I had the very kind nurse promise to dial Mom’s phone so that she could call me and say goodnight. I needed to hear that she was okay and still with us. She sounded wheezy and out of breath still, but boy, was I ever glad to hear her speak. I was nowhere near ready to lose my Heavy D. We’ve come through so much together, and I have to believe we’ve got more adventures to go through yet.
A day of stress, a day of loss, a day of life. My mother’s struggles, my friend’s loss, and my own loss, as I found out that my dear elderly friend, Eleanor, the woman I call my Jewish Mom, passed away after a battle with cancer. Yet again, I feel like I’m in eye of a storm that continues to swirl around me. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” -T.S. Eliot
This was also a day of shining lights. Life throws many challenges our way, but in each of those challenges is an opportunity to grow, to see the beauty of kindness in those who reach out to help, to see the strength in yourself that you didn’t know was there, and the gift of learning to give to those you love selflessly. Life is more rich when we are faced with challenges, and the things that really matter crystallize and come to the surface. As for T.S. Elliot- yes, I am in over my head….but I’m thinking I’m going to learn that I’m pretty tall after all of this.
At least I’ll be reaching toward the beautiful sky.