Thursday, April 30, 2015

How's Your Mom?

“How’s your mom?”

I've been getting that question a lot in the last 18 months. First she had blood clots and then, a year later, had to have her hip replaced. Once she had the surgery and was healed and back home, we had a little respite, but as the second half of last year unfolded, she lost some mobility, had increased pain and just generally stopped being able to do much. She has sort of folded in on herself. She’s more bent, more shuffly, much, much slower. The last couple of months have included two hospitalizations and a month in a rehab facility to work on strengthening her body. I expect that this shouldn't be a surprise. I mean, people get old. But there are old people and elderly people. Today I googled “how old is elderly?” and found an article on from March 14, 2013 that says “In the end, ‘elderly’ may be more a state of being – or feeling – than a certain age.”1 Mom was supposed to get old without being elderly.

Mom was a force to be reckoned with when she was younger. She was incredibly active and health-conscious, roller-bladeing around Atlanta and working out at all hours of the day or night. She took a year off of work to travel around the world – she spent time in Australia and China, she trekked in Nepal, and I think she even rode an elephant in Indonesia. She eschewed conventionality, read vociferously, honed her disrespect of authority to a fine point, and just generally danced to her own music.

The damage to her hip is what did her in, I think. Prior to that, she knew she had some degenerative disc issues, but she worked out at the gym and remained active, and was able to keep herself flexible and pretty strong. Once the pain of her hip overwhelmed her, she just couldn't do any of that any more. The surgery to replace her hip certainly made things better for a while, but the months of inactivity allowed other pains and issues to come to the forefront, and it’s been a constant battle for her since.

So the question “how’s your mom?” which used to be answered by regaling the questioner with tales of Mom’s latest conquests, is now answered using the previous day as a point of reference. “She’s much better than she was yesterday.” Or, “She seems much weaker today than she was yesterday.”
Mom is frustrated and scared. Mostly she’s scared that she’ll have to live out her life in increasing pain. And scared that she won’t be able to live independently any more. And, unfortunately, it looks as if both of these fears are not unfounded.

The job my siblings and I have is to help Mom navigate this new reality and help her to find hope. Of course, we also have to make sure she’s taking her meds and eating right, and doing all those other things that her caregivers tell her to do - which can tend to annoy her (see the comment above about her feelings about authority). But that’s the price for having children who love you I guess.

Besides worrying about Mom, the thing that keeps me up at night is knowing that I need to take better care of myself. Mom’s story proves that even the healthiest people are not promised an easy trip up to and through their golden years, but I’m guessing that my chances will be better if I do the things I know I should do. If I’m lucky, it’ll make life better for not only me, but for my children as well. Because the fact of the matter is that at some point I’ll probably have to depend on them the way my mother is depending on my siblings and me. I hope they are kind and loving. And I hope I’m not a complete pain in the arse.

Update: So if you asked me “how’s your mom?” right now, I’d tell you that she had a good day. We’re watching a movie that she can’t really hear and I pause it every once in a while to tell her what’s going on. And a little bit earlier tonight, while Mom was making her way through the kitchen with her walker, my sweet Sara called her “Zippy.” It is important to keep one’s sense of humor.  


Friday, April 3, 2015

What About Saturday?

Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus was crucified.

Imagine the craziness of that day. Since the night before, when Jesus was taken away, His followers were probably frantically trying to find out what was going on while frantically trying to keep from being taken themselves. They were human, after all, and I expect that their self-preservation tendencies were pretty darn strong that day. Through what passed for a trial, the whipping, the march to Golgotha, the night prior and the early part of the day were packed with crowds, shouting, pain, and terror. Then, all of a sudden, it was over.

So what did their Saturday look like? We talk about Good Friday, and we talk about Easter, but what about Saturday? The furor had died down, it was the Sabbath so nothing could be done. And the disciples’ hopes and dreams had to have been shattered. Here they had followed the one who they were sure was the Messiah. They expected Him to be the king to finally defeat the Romans and take back the lands that the Lord gave their ancestors. But instead, he died. False prophets had come and gone, and now…was it possible that Jesus was a false prophet as well? He wasn't supposed to die. He was supposed to rise up and take over.

And now what? I imagine that they huddled together somewhere safe. Somewhere they wouldn't be found. All were grieving, all needed comfort, but who would take that role? Because all were grieving, and all needed comfort. And I imagine them in small groups, talking quietly to each other about what they knew to be true, and what they questioned. I imagine there were tears – both of grief and of disappointment. I imagine there might have been arguments. But in the end they only had each other, so I imagine that by evening, they clung to each other, shared a meal, and put the question of what to do next aside for the time being. Maybe they remembered that Jesus told them to love each other, and decided that whatever lay ahead, they should at least do that.

The next day, of course, everything changed again. But oh, that Saturday. What a dark, hopeless day that must have been.

I’m struggling with how to end this post. I don’t have any wisdom to impart, I was just thinking about those poor disciples and needed to write it down. But maybe we should take a little bit of time tomorrow to say a prayer for anyone in our lives who might be experiencing pain or despair. Pray that they might have an Easter coming soon to show them that there is light after darkness.