Changing Gears

There are days when I catch a brief glimpse of my reflection in a mirror or a storefront window with slow and puzzled recognition. Yes, indeed that aging face, with the too long shaggy mess of curling hair is actually me! The image I see reflected there does not in any way match the mental picture that I have in my head. I think my brain got stuck around 50, and somewhere in just the right light (or lack thereof) I still expect to see that face, recognizable and familiar, reflected back at me.

I recently made the leap into retirement, which conjures up the completely wrong image. I drug myself over the finish line, gasping and exhausted. The death of my father preceded my retirement by less than a month, and to say that I was on emotional, physical, and spiritual overload would be an understatement.

Like many of my fellow Americans, I have been exhausted by the political chaos that surrounds all of us. It has taken a toll on my sense of peace and well-being. Let’s just say that I hoped for more, and have been sorely disappointed, some days I am scared witless, and most days just heartbroken by the realities of prejudice and hatred that was festering just under the surface.

In spite of that, I find myself shifting gears. I have had some sort of “job” all of my life. Children who grew up in big families in the 1950’s and 1960’s were part of the team of workers. Everyone was a vital contributor to the welfare of the household.  I’m sure there are still many families that function in that way, but it isn’t as prevalent as it once was.

I now find myself at home and setting my own agenda for the first time since my children were very little. It is an interesting time for me. I spent the last six months of my working life silently “yelling” at myself to “get up, get to work, get things done.” Now, I am just quietly plodding along. some days are full of accomplishments, and others are just days spent thinking, praying, analyzing ideas for…all kinds of possibilities.

I tell my self that my lack of check marks for “things done” is partly due to the shock of having lost my father. I think it is more than just that. I’m still “shifting gears” to a quieter, more contemplative life.

And that’s okay.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Mother’s Mourning

My mother and father have been living in separate places. After sharing a bed, a table, and a life for over sixty-seven years, they live three miles apart needing different levels of care. Like so many folks who have successfully managed to pass their  eighty-fifth birthdays, the sands under their feet have shifted and life has suddenly become unfamiliar and frightening and often lonely for both of them. 

Since my father’s fall and declining health my sister and I have made countless trips between the two facilities so that my mother can visit my father. 

Some visits are difficult, but successful. My father is always in bed, but he can communicate if we write our “news” onto a white erasable board. Mom struggles to come up with much to write, and begins to tire very quickly. However over all, those are the “good days.”

On the “bad days” my Mom isn’t able to get my father to awaken. She’s kissing him, rubbing his face, or patting him (sometimes quite vigorously) on the chest and arm-still nothing. He just sleeps and sleeps. One of his nurses has suggested that this may be a manifestation of his bipolar disorder. When he is “low” he is really low!

The bad days take a huge toll on Mom. She’s sometimes angry at my father and at other times her face clearly shows the signs of intense and gut wrenching grief. She says her heart is breaking. 

My mother is caught between my Dad’s life and his death. She is stuck in a place of deep mourning. She’s physically unable to care for him (as am I) and yet each parting comes with a massive load of guilt and second guessing.

 Surely if he just tried harder to get well, or if he would/could do physical therapy or if he would try to eat, or sit up more, or, or, or…and all the other “what if’s” and emotional bargaining that we all do with the dying process are heavily weighing on her each time we leave. 

My mother is mourning. At eighty-seven she is learning to live alone for the first time. She’s experiencing all the stages of grief while her husband is still living. It is difficult beyond words. 

Some days we pray for it to end.