My mother is in rehab. No, not for drugs or alchyhol–she’s 98 and a half years old, for Christ’s sake! She’s an inmate for peace and wholeness, which is kinda what we’re looking for in her recovery from a broken arm, giant bruised head bump, and general old aginess. This is hard.
Hard on me, hard on her. We are suffering like something resembling Job’s tale in the Bible. Misery piled on top of misery. They say the first cut is the deepest, but all the tiny paper-thin slices thereafter accumulate and develop into large layered wounds that don’t react favorably to antibiotics or much of anything else that might fleetingly suggest a cure.
Undoubtedly the depth of the suffering is 98.6% exacerbated by the cruel fact that we have been doing this caregiving/care-needing minuet for close to forty years. The fatigue, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, pain, exhaustion, and anger all pile up on top of each other till they topple, balanced no more. The stack then begins to rebuild, and the ultimate realization sets in once again: there’s nothing to be done about it. A fairy queen on a golden unicorn is, in fact, not planning to come anywhere near us to whisk away our miseries with the sparkly wave of a wand.
What does help? Well: (1.) sobbing uncontrollably, and (b.) deep acknowledgment from other souls. The sobbing comes from a bottomless place of grief and as it occurs–every day now–I am just as deeply grateful. If I couldn’t cry I don’t think I would survive, as it’s a release and knowing all wrapped up in one gift. Acknowledgment from others is something I have no control over. When it comes, it’s like an angel has massaged my aching interiors with light and loving grace.
Being in a situation like this causes you to be more sensitive to others’ pain. I was born and raised unusually compassionate anyway, and these kinds of experiences simply shove that trait more fully to the fore. Last weekend when Mom was first transferred from the hospital and admitted to skilled nursing, she had a caregiver who stood out from the crowd, the kind of woman who takes matters into her own hands. A bit crude and rough around the edges, she gets stuff done, this Angela.
At one point there were bathroom issues, as there always are, right? Not knowing or seeing any other quick solutions, Angela scooped up my 100 lb. mother from the bed all by herself and deposited her gently into the bedside chair. Should Angie have been doing this? Probably not…for myriad reasons! But she did it, kindly and safely.
This weekend Angie showed up again with her brightly colored plus-size shirt and down-home accent. She mentioned to me, while arranging blankets and bed height, that she works only on the weekends and takes care of her son during the week.
“Oh,” I thought, all my empathetic pores opening out into the room like pulsing radar, “there it is.” Honestly I had sensed something emanating from her the week before and now recognize it as a condition I call “severe humanity.”
We’re all in this together. If you pretend you’re not mixed in with us, you’re in for a rude awakening. The human condition: UGH! Often rough, pitiful, shameful, dirty, bellicose, disgusting, nasty, evil, and disappointing. Though, when you look for it or it finds you watching, it can fill you with love, gratefulness and awe. And schmaltziness. So there. For the record I am still overwhelmingly miserable. And so are you…hey! You’re undoubtedly much worse off than I am!
I see you. My heart follows your chagrin with love and a hope for healing and peace and wholeness (at LEAST 98.6% of the time).