On Feeling Pretty, Magical Friends, and Letting Go
Yesterday was filled with a flurry of activity, running from one thing to the next to make sure things were taken care of for Mom before I left this morning for ClarinetFest in Baton Rouge for almost a week. My best friend, Diane, stayed by my side throughout the day, doing her best to keep me on course and laughing at the bumps in the road…it was a challenge, to say the least, but then again, she’s great at bringing a smile to my face and helping me keep perspective.
It has now been just over two weeks since Mom’s fall, hospital stay, and subsequent move to the rehab facility at St. Martin’s in the Pines. It is interesting to note the effects of stress on my brain from all of this. I had hoped that I would be one of those people who is clear headed and calm in times of crisis. I wanted to be the calm during the storm, keep my yoga Zen. Nope. I have become increasingly addle-brained, forgetting things moments after I’ve set out to take care of them, needing to write everything down to remember what I have to do, running into things, tripping over things…I have become the sweet-but-befuddled Aunt Clara from the old Bewitched show. I always did love her, but really hadn’t planned on becoming her…
My mother has always been fastidious about her appearance, and her hair had grown longer than I’d ever seen it and looked scraggly. I knew she would feel so much better if we could get her to the little salon just around the corner from her room, so that was high on my priority list. When Diane and I got to Chez Heavy D, the nurses were lifting her into her wheelchair with the Hoyer Lift. Mom was taking the opportunity to put on a show, making everyone in the room crack up at her antics. It was so good to see my mom be my mom again after the challenges she has faced since her fall. She is an amazing woman, and I learn so much about facing aging with grace and dignity from her.
(Mom takes a ride…)
Diane sat with Mom at the salon while I dealt with the cable company. It seems getting a land line activated to get Mom back in touch with family and friends is turning out to be much more of a hurdle than we had ever thought. We’re having to switch providers, and they’ve still not figured things out yet. That connection with family and friends is really important, so I hope that we have her back in the saddle with her beloved phone soon. The head nurse came in to talk to me as the technician worked, and after a minute she stopped and asked me if I was a member of the clergy. I told her no, that I was a teacher. She said, “I wondered, because you have a servant’s heart.” Her words touched me deeply, and I am glad that the folks at St. Martin’s can see that I love Mom and will be there for her.
When Diane wheeled Mom back into her room after her hair appointment, Mom looked just beautiful. More importantly, I could see her sitting a bit taller in her chair, with more of that old sparkle in her eye. I have worried about all of the losses she has experienced in the past two weeks; loss of dignity in taking care of her own bodily functions by herself, loss of control of what she does, what she eats, where she goes, loss of the comfort of her own apartment, surrounded by the things she loves…the list goes on and on. What I see, however, is a woman making the best of what life has put in her path. She is smiling, charming people, being the comedienne of the place….I am so proud of her.
I called on some friends who kindly offered to help me, something that is difficult for me to do. I like to be the one helping, not the one being helped. I have lined up some very sweet friends and former students to visit with Mom during my absence, especially helpful as Dan has jury duty this week. How incredibly kind of these people who either barely know Mom or who only know her through my writing to give their time to visit with her. Again and again, angels in human form surround us.
One of my former music education students, Lindsey Lingerfelt, wanted to be introduced to Mom before going to visit her on his own. They hit it off beautifully, and Mom launched into her stories for him right away. She has never met a stranger. He brought her some yummy gourmet treats, which she decided that- though she loves to share with everyone- these treats would be just for her. At almost ninety-three, the woman can have whatever she wants- I plan to do the same if I live that long.
I think back over all of the beauty that has come out of this sad time, all of the friends who have come with encouragement, words of comfort or advice, offers of help, gifts of laughter and light. On one of the toughest days, I came home to cards from two of my dearest friends, and a package from my magical Open Group from Bedlam Farm friend, Lisa Dingle, someone who knows how to weather life’s storms with dignity, grace, and a good dose of humor. She has no idea how her note and gifts cheered me on a day that had beaten me down. Just knowing that such good people are out in the world, sending good thoughts our way, has made all the difference. One day at a time, one friend at a time, one gift of kindness and compassion at a time, Mom and I will get through this.
Diane and I left for Baton Rouge early this morning in Dan’s Mini Cooper, ‘The Blue MaGoo’. While I am homesick for Dan and the critters and I still worry about Mom, I am so happy for this time with my best friend away from the stress for a few days. As the miles passed and Diane and I laughed and talked, I felt like I was becoming my old self again. My brain felt a bit clearer, and I didn’t feel that knot in the pit of my stomach quite so strongly. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Dan likes to say, “change of latitude, change of attitude.” I think he’s on to something.
I am really hoping that this week back in my professional world, presenting, performing, and being inspired by some of the world’s greatest players, will help to get my head back in the right place to begin school in a few weeks, to finish my book and articles that came to a screeching halt when Mom fell. I have to learn how to be my professional musician and teacher self and my wife and friend self, along with being my caretaker self all at the same time. I have to let go of obsessing about Mom’s care- being there for her, but trusting that she is in good hands and that I can’t do it all by myself. In learning that, I think all parts of me will be healthier and better able to help.
Time to rest up….this will be a week full of music, reconnecting with colleagues from around the world, a week of inspiration, a time to rejuvenate my musical spirit, something that is as much a part of me as the air I breathe. I am also counting on a lot of laughter along the way here in Baton Rouge, and also in room 305 at St. Martin’s in Birmingham. I know a certain silver-haired lady with lots of stories to tell and smiles to share, and I look forward to my big hug when I see her next Monday morning.