What Can You Do...
Another week in pandemic paradise. Life is as always confusingly beautiful; moments of despair warring with moments of grace and sheer humor. It might be a draw, despair making a real gain early this week with laughter and gratitude taking the later rounds.
I am well into my yoga teacher training certification; my final project starting to take clear shape in my mind as I study the logistics of sequencing and peak poses. Some of theses poses cause some deep belly laughs as I realize the impossibility of them; no modification large enough for this aging and injured body. The beauty of the training and all the philosophical reading is the acceptance of the now. The sheer you are enough as you are, message of completeness. I love the you are perfect as you are but there is always room for improvement dichotomy. The seeming contradiction of stay and be intentional, in the moment, aspire, but don’t form attachment to the result is something I have spent a lot of time with this week. Be your best, be grateful and find a way to laugh, because you have no control over any of it.
My friend Maureen brought all three of those lessons home on Tuesday. Monday morning bright and early, I was on the phone with Mama Maria’s doctor. On hold for eternity, I magnanimously granted a pass: Monday morning during a pandemic, I could wait. I was so pleased when my mom got the first appointment of the day Tuesday. Not only the first appointment, but thirty minutes before office officially opened, I was feeling strong, happy; I was taking care of Maria.
I let my friend Maureen know, she was all set; planning to get to my mom’s house in plenty of time to arrive early for the appointment. All set, except my mom was not on board. Three days out from the fall, she was in fine form. She did not need an appointment, she was not getting up early. She would not set the alarm, or open the door for Maureen. She ended the conversation with some particularly choice and creative curses in Spanish. Lovely.
I called my sister, she tried and failed. We would not be defeated; arranged for the back door to be stealthily opened. High level shenanigans all around, 10:30am appointment had taken on the characteristics of military operation.
Tuesday morning, first call 8am. I called every ten to fifteen minutes before she finally answered at 9:15am. I can tell by Maria’s tone she had been awake, and chose not to answer the last couple of calls. I told her Maureen is on the way, she says “for what”, this does not bode well. But again, the tone, she was having a “with it day”, gearing up to impress the doctor. Or maybe to go on the lam, leaving Maureen to find an empty house.
Relief, Maureen finds her home, a brief video chat with me, and off they go. Maureen has brought her 14 year old son with her. Fearing injured ribs might make climbing into her minivan difficult, she has rousted her son early and Joey is part of Operation get Maria to the doctor. With very little help Maria scrambled into the van. Maureen was also unable to see the bruise that had been apparent on my moms ribs on Saturday. Maria might be, as my sister claims an octogenarian cyborg.
Doctors office arrival becomes sketchy. First appointment of the day, hard to tell a waiting room full of people greets them. Maureen and my mom sent back to the safety of the car to wait. And wait, and wait. An hour in, I call the office and after another stint on hold I get told there are still eight patients ahead of my mom, there is a new system, something went wrong, blah blah blah. I lose it, but keep my voice pretty calm as I asked about the wrong of keeping an eighty nine year old woman in the car for an hour, in July, they have no water or snacks; Maureen commented she didn’t realize she would need a cooler. The first real laugh of the day, as we discussed the finer points of tailgating at the doctor’s office.
More than two hours later my mom and Maureen went in. Maureen calls and I watch on video chat as the nurses tried to rush my mom through questioning. There is no rushing Maria. Maria in her prime could not be rushed, Maria at 89 is as speedy as three legged turtle with bifocals. The nurse continue to race through the depression questionnaire; which honestly felt was hilariously ironic. I watched this all from my garden and was wiping tears of laughter away. The nurses would speed talk things like “are you sad”, ”do you think you would be better off dead”. Between speed of questions and masks, my mom did not even realize they were talking to her. When they would pause and look at her, she would just say WHAT, very loudly through her mask. Maureen got involved and asked her very slowly, “Do you feel sad“,” do you feel like you would be better off dead”. My mom say NO, very shocked that Maureen would ask such a thing. And so it goes, the nurses, jabber, my mom Shouting “what,” Maureen slowly asking the questions; my moms eyes clearly wondering what was wrong with Maureen that she was asking all these personal questions. It was like a skit from Saturday Night Live. And then I realized it’s a microcosm of what we all do, all the time. Mindlessly power on, don’t change our approach, and expect a different result.
My mom knows only one way to be. Gritty, self protective, she will throw anyone under the bus if need be and has no compunction about fibs great or small. She put on a show for the doctor when he finally arrived after one (remember 10:30am appointment). He would not allow the video call to continue so sadly my Maria at the doctor programming came to an end. But the recap was excellent.
While Maria was not able to disguise the short term memory problem, she was able to be charming and social with the doctor. She denied falling and said she was fine. Fine was the word of the day. Everyone was inclined to believe that this was true, given the lack of bruising and her spry on and off the table action. There was concern that she had been lax with medications, but this was thought to be understandable given the pandemic and circumstances. Blood pressure, better than mine would have been after sitting in the car for two hours. Everything pretty good for a very old lady. Some lab work done and a probably unnecessary rib X-ray script and Operation Maria completed, and time for lunch.
My level of gratitude for Maureen and let’s not forget the amazing Joey, cannot be quantified. After gearing up for the doctor, my mom was done in, and spiraled into a short term memory loop. Here was the lunch conversation: “ How old are you Joey” “14”, “last year of middle school”, “nope going into high school”. Pause to chew some food. “How old are you Joey”... same exact conversation on repeat over and over again. Thirty minutes of how old are you Joey, while my mom made her way through a burger and fries. Joey answered every time. Though the three of us laughed later over it, after Maria was safely back at home, the grace of a 14 year old boy with that kind of patience moves me.
It is easy to become bitter and angry in this world. So much is out of our control. I have finally learned that the only thing I can control are my reactions, and thoughts. And frankly this is still hard work. I have been spending my days gardening, studying yoga, reading and dancing. I am working on controlling the level of media I consume. I am trying to balance the despair and horror with uplifting and funny content. Sometimes, I get lucky and the news is infused with humor. But the task of staying positive is hard work these days, and I am so grateful for my friends and family.
This week, emotions were all over the map, I was laughing, crying, mad and plain done in; what I was was human. So human me, welcomed the first beautiful hibiscus of summer and then watched it wilt very quickly, as hibiscus do. The perfect in the moment bloom, beautiful and an oh so short lived moment of radiance. I guess it is the perfect metaphor for all of us , in life and at any moment; nothing lasts. That fact is neither sad or happy. But everything leaves an echo, a feeling , a memory. The overwhelming memory of this week is of generosity and gratitude. A life long friend and her child caring for my mom, as I sat miles away, leaves me feeling overwhelmed with the beauty and complexity of human nature. We are all capable of these blessed acts of kindness. We can all find a way to brighten our day with laughter; why do we so often choose the paths of anger and selfishness. From now on, whenever I feel like the world is the worst place I am going to think of Joey. Who ever heard of a 14 year old boy with that level of patience; how many 14 year old boys would have agreed to have helped out in the first place? Joey gives me hope, and I share this hope with you.
Maria as always gives me all the feels. Maureen texted me later that day and told me something that made me laugh out loud, literally, not just emoji style.
When asked why she hadn’t been to, or been in contact with, the doctor, my mom, smooth as silk said she had been spending the pandemic with her daughter in Vermont. The moment passed quickly, and the flat out lie was not exposed. I will take it as a tiny win. Though she has no real desire to be here with me, at least she knows she can use me as an excuse. And knowing that I want her here probably gave the lie a ring of authenticity. Knowing she could have been here, probably had her believing it as truth. That is how Maria world works and I will hold that in gratitude too. My intention is help and be there for my mom, and in her own uniquely Maria way she allows for it. Meanwhile, I will continue to find solace in the beauty of the world around me and joy in sacred old friendships. I will dance, laugh and love; what else can you do?