Monday, November 24, 2008

our mothers: solitude

Ben's mom is sick. She has been sick for two years, but last night on the phone she sounded sick. She just started a new chemo. Her life is full of so much fighting -- fighting the body, fighting tumors, fighting numbers, fighting against odds, fighting to hope, fighting with insurance, fighting out of fear, fighting for comfort. Exhausting.

My grandmother broke her hip about a month ago. My mom's been in Florida visiting her and told me today that Nana will have to stay at the nursing home where she's been recovering indefinitely. The trauma of breaking her hip seems to have rocked her memory even more, and she gets disoriented even in the task of getting dressed. Caring for a parent looks h a r d -- what is enough? is caring for parents or caring for children a priority? what is right vs American way of life? where do loyalties lie? where do you lie sandwiched between caring for the generations on either side of you? I never knew about the "sandwich generation" until now. There are such demands on your care-- you may as well be a fountain...
(psalm 36:9)

Both of our mothers are in stages that emphasize solitude. For Cindy, no matter how many people rally around her, no matter how closely someone listens or can relate, no matter how much compassion one shares for her, no one can feel what she feels. No one can understand the incessant pain, the hell of chemo, the burning in her abdomen. For my mom, as much as we (her kids) try to understand and listen, we don't know the feeling of watching one's own mother's record of her life and yours slip away, the responsibility of making decisions of how to care for her, the strains of living far and trying to be present, the weight of caring, the sadness, the anger (?) -- all of the history that's brought both of them to this place.

How to love, how to have compassion, how to journey with people --- these are the lifelong questions we fumble with.

I feel like I am fumbling especially now, balancing the phone with my shoulder, arms up to the elbows in the batter of two little kids.

It finally feels like fall here after weeks of 90 degree wildfire weather. Last night while I was falling asleep it rained. Rain here is usually quiet mist (that causes people to baton down the hatches), but last night it rained -- water beating against the windows, puddles in the morning, and a wide morning sky of clouds. Tonight our mothers are across the country. Maybe when they wake up tomorrow, the sky will be striking and the air sharp and clean.

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