Sunday, June 12, 2005

When waves crash on the beaches of our lives

We plan. We strategize. We pontificate. We enjoy the illusion that we are in control. And then the waves come crashing over the sea walls we erect to protect ourselves from the outside world.

I was sharing some work problems with a friend earlier in the week, and she asked was I happy. I told her about another friend who had a critically ill relative and said that helps put our problems in perspective. My friend got defensive and said there was more to life than not having pain, which wasn't what I said, but ...

Then Friday, my mother's minister called. Mama had been teaching Vacation Bible School earlier in the week and had gotten disoriented and confused. She picked up her grandchild to take him home, only the child she picked up was not her grandchild. With the child screaming, mama argued with the other workers that she was right and to let her go and ...

When I called mama Friday to ask if she was OK, she insisted everything was fine. It seemed like a casual check-up call at first, until I asked if she had become disoriented earlier in the week. "Well no, why would you ask that?" As I got more specific, she got more irritated. "Who have you been talking to?" Getting off the phone, she thanked me for being concerned, insisted she was quite alright, but that wasn't the last call of the day ...

Saturday, mama's first cousin and I went to Charleston to bring mama to Anderson to stay with her cousin for at least a few days. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Our cousin ordered a salad with cheese and broccoli soup. Mama was looking at her menu and didn't remember what the soup choices were, so she asked the waitress again. "A salad with cheese and broccoli soup is what I'll have, too," mama ordered ...

Within ten minutes, we had gone to the salad bar and were back at our table when they brought the soup. The waitress gave one soup to our cousin and the other to my mother. My mother said she didn't order the soup, and when we told her she did, she got very insistent that she didn't ...

My stomach tightened. The pain on my face as I looked at our cousin said more than I could have verbalized at that point.

We don't know what's wrong. Mama has been under a lot of stress. Is it as simple as that? Did she have a small stroke? Could it be Alzheimer’s, with all the terror and dread that implies? We just don't know.

Our cousin and I later discussed what we might need to do. She said, "I'll take care of your mother, but you'll have to take care of the house in Charleston, contact her stockbroker about her investments, and get her bills paid."

I stopped by my mother's house about a month ago for a very brief visit. She was anxious about her finances and asked me to go downtown to meet with her stockbroker. I had to get back home to Greenville that day so didn't have time. I've meant to schedule a day to do that, but never did. I wish I had. Maybe mama was trying to tell me something she couldn't tell me directly. Now I'll have to find the time in my calendar to attend to what I should have paid attention to already.

When we got to my house Saturday night, my wife had been working hard all day fixing a wonderful dinner. It was delightful and comforting given the day that we'd had. After dinner, my mother was off to our cousin's house to stay for awhile.

We do have protection from the major storms in our lives. But it is not because we are in control ... in an instant that can be exposed for the illusion that it is. Often our sea walls are the people who love us and do what they can to protect us from the most violent waves.

4 comments:

Carol Pyfrom said...

John, I read your story about your mama in amazement. It was so wonderful for you,, such a strong Leader in our Community, to remind us that no matter what we try to aspire to in our daily lives - our God and our Family must be first. Mamma needs her son maybe for just a short time for her physical condition but always in her life. The hardest thing for a mother to do is ask her kids for help because we don't want to interfer...but we need help. My prayers will be with you and your family. Remember, she must come first...we will all be here awaiting your full attention...Until then, May God Be With you and your Family. Respectfully, Carol P

Anonymous said...

John, I read your story and can relate. I started the year out worrying about being layed off at the Savannah River Site. That soon became insignificant relative to what was to follow. I lost my oldest sister to lung cancer in January. In March, my mother passed away. In April my daughter separated from her husband. My daughter is to have surgery in June. My mother-in-law is in the hospital with a feeding tube. We are in the process of trying to find a suitable nursing home. If you don't have money forget it! And I can't forget our pet Bichon who has had two surgeries already this year. So like the old saying if you want to make God laugh just tell him your plans!

Richard Peck said...

John, I think you touched a lot of us with the honest account of your Mom and your current circumstances. I remember going through this with my Grandmother, who loved me dearly and almost raised me (half my growing up years were spent with her). I didn't understand what was going on at the time, which made it worse. Thanks for your honesty and courage in writing about a tough situation.

Anonymous said...

God bless your cousin who is willing to take care of your mother! I hope you will do all you can to support her and relieve her of "the duty" (that's what my sister and I called it when we were responsible for our mother who had emphysema) as much as you possibly can. Being a caretaker to somewho who needs a lot of care is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself, too. You may not yet realize the stress you are under as well. I pray your mother's condition is only temporary.