Proceed With Tenderness

July 15, 2015

I am sorry not to be more original in my southland photos… sunsets, harbors… yeah, yeah.

Drove along the water on our way to dinner…


And, about 30 minutes later, the view from our window seat at the fish place:


It was a lovely day, like most days I spend with my mom, but it was not an easy day  These just aren’t relaxing days. They’re emotional minefields. My mom is kind of a wreck. I know–I can see–it’s hard to lose, one by one, so very many things in your life that you love and value. Friends, family members, independence, mobility, comfort, activity, a social life. Not to mention it’s hard to see, hear, eat, sleep, digest, process. And move, did I say move? I mean like from one room to another. Or, as the day goes on, from one chair to another.

Hard to be the stylin’ gal you’ve always thought yourself to be, tethered to oxygen, wobbling with a cane.

As grateful, I think, as my mom is to even be living–with a critical mass of brain cells intact, children and grandchildren more or less nearby, a great grandchild on the way, great books to read, tennis matches to watch, pleasing views out the window, and all the rest–aging is not at all something she’s handling well. It’s the shits. At least that’s my observation of my mom’s experience of it. She’s frustrated, short tempered, fearful, lonely, in a lot of discomfort and, on top of it all, so self-critical it’s just painful. Hard to recognize her as mi mama.

I vow, I really do, to not ever find aging to be anything less than a privilege. This is the miracle of life we’re talking about! It’s more than a worthwhile tradeoff. And I vow to look at aging as a challenge to be met with grace, humor, humility, and unending gratitude.

I want the same for her but she’s not having it.

She has so much to be grateful for. She is so fortunate.  And yet her frustration trumps all. Frustrated as she is, she is not willing to accept or put into place the kind of help she needs. Too proud. Too stubborn. C’mon, mom, cowboy up!!

And I know this is right out of Readers’ Digest, but I am not kidding, this is the level of conversation we have so often these days, and that we had continually over the last four days. Reminders of what’s good. A calm approach to prioritizing what’s important and evaluating all the options. A frank look at where we are and what our resources are.

I’m guessing I’m actually pretty clueless here. What do I really know about the process–the heartache, the loss, the pain. Being twenty six years younger may disqualify me. I probably have no right to lecture. To listen, yes… to be encouraging, yes…

If I’m lucky enough to make it to 86, I hope I’m a model aging senior. I hope at least one of the benefits of being my mom’s daughter is that I can learn from her experience. I’m hell bent on aging like a boss.

My mom, though? This is a work in progress. The four of us are mobilizing in new ways (well, Jay’s a bit out of the loop, but not for long). Normal keeps shifting.

Proceed with tenderness.