Making Time for What Matters

night driveMom has been visiting with my sister in New Hampshire for the past two weeks, and yesterday was the day Sarah and I drove to Toledo (which Kathy insisted was the most convenient meeting place … it involved twelve hours of driving for her, two and a half for me, but … well, okay.)

While we waited for my sister to arrive, Sarah and I hit the movies and took in Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again. In this movie, the mother (played by Meryl Streep) has died and the daughter (Amanda Seyfried) is about to have a grand re-opening party for the hotel that she has remodeled as a memorial. The movie itself is a series of flashbacks and forwards, showing how the daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps all along the way (except for the crazy gal pals, I guess). Each generation in turn sets a goal, makes a plan, and rallies those near and dear to help pull it off with single-minded ferocity.

And everything is beautifully color coordinated in Elysian Blue.

Late last night, my sister and I talked for a long time about our respective lives, how things have changed since mom has joined us (and they have). Their two weeks were replete with quilt shops, swimming holes, and homemade sweet potato pie. By contrast, mine is full of laundry, getting kids to do their chores, and pill counting. At the end of the day I collapse and either heat or ice my shoulder in an effort to get the ache to go away long enough for the Tylenol PM to kick in so I can sleep.

No twinkly lights. No spontaneous bursts of song. Unless you count the fifteen minutes I spent forcing my daughter to go over her choir music. Although she has an amazing voice, she doesn’t like people to look at her, and so getting her to sing in the new youth choir required a minor miracle. I told her I didn’t want a birthday present if she would just sing for one performance. Mama Mia, here we go again…

Then, unexpectedly, my mom wandered into the room and sat in her recliner, fixed her gaze on Sarah, and smiled. And if by magic, Sarah started to sing Panis Angelicus. A little breathy at first, then with greater confidence. I tried to reinforce the Latin pronunciations and got the stink eye … but as long as Mammy was watching, all was well.

So glad you made it home, Mama Mia.

Advertisements

Help! Snail Crossing Ahead

snail-3393204_1920
If you’ve ever been an adult caregiver, you know that finding and keeping reliable, personable at-home workers (especially CNAs) is one of the most challenging parts of coordinating care. While I know many caregivers go without home health care aides, I simply cannot manage the all the lifting and bending my mother needs, and even though I work from home I need to have someone keep an eye on her when I’m working in my office downstairs, to keep her alert and active as possible.

Care.com has been helpful — we found our best worker there. But the payroll service that is affiliated with them was tough for my elderly father to figure out, and so when our second home healthcare worker emailed me today to let me know that she was not going to be able to continue to work with us (she recently passed her boards and was making more money at the other job), I panicked. Mom’s Medicaid is supposed to go through in the next couple of weeks, and she’ll start a new program that handles morning routines and pick up/delivery. But how am I going to hire someone for just a couple of weeks?

The truth is, I can’t. We’re just going to have to hunker down and get through it. This will mean getting up earlier, starting the day sooner, and managing one more person’s daily routine at a snail’s pace. Then again, maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

Tonight’s reading, from Jesus Calling, seemed particularly apt. “Don’t rush about, or think too far ahead of what your next task will be,” I read. “Just focus on the task in front of you, and allow your will to conform with mine.”

Indeed. Isn’t that just the antidote to all worry and stress? To slow down, and stay in the present moment. Lord, thank you for the chance to practice this spiritual discipline again.

 

 

When Mom Moves In: A Family Adventure

family 5“Congratulations! It’s a mother!” my sister joked when I told her that Craig and I had decided to extend Mom’s Thanksgiving visit indefinitely. Sandy is here to stay! Yeah!

Secretly I had hoped for this outcome, but wanted to give Mom a chance to acclimate to the reality of life Chez Saxton.  In reality, it went better than I’d ever dared to hope. The kids are happy, she is happy, and both Craig and I agree it’s the way things are supposed to be.

There was only one small hiccup, coming from my daughter. “But what if Mammy dies?” Sarah asked.

“Well, she will die one day — we all will, because it’s just part of life. We don’t know when Mammy will die, though — it could be months or even years. And that will be sad. But when her job on earth is done and it’s time for her to go to God, we will be so thankful for this time we had with her, won’t we?” She nodded. “And we will be happy that she spent that time with us, and not alone in that other place.” Another nod. “So … this is a good thing, right?”

A smile. “I’m going to go help Mammy with the jigsaw!” And she did. Then she went upstairs and shaved off her own hair. It seems her anxieties manifest themselves in hyper-sensitive hair follicles. That wig was a good investment!

I know that there are many people who are facing similar challenges with their own elderly parents, trying to decide how to care for them in their declining years. Financial issues, family dynamics, and diminished capacities all have to factor in to the decision.

And yet it’s also important to factor in the benefits: Another adult in the home can introduce a new, fresh dynamic to how a family operates. Old arguments and conflicts can be resolved in gentler, kinder ways with witnesses present (for both kids and adults)! As I listen to my mother interact with Sarah, patiently listening to her chatter away about makeup as she paints Mom’s nails a garish shade of gold, I breathe a sigh of thanks. I find myself slowing my pace, and noticing the moments. Mom’s dietary requirements mean healthier eating for all of us. And so it goes.

The question of “What if she dies?” still lingers. In my next article, I will post some suggestions from a woman who recently sent me some tips on helping kids with grief.