Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On previous anniversaries of September 11, I have written a reflective post on where I was, how things were going, what I thought, etc. This year, I couldn’t reflect on that date when the days surrounding this September 11 have been in such turmoil. The Oak Ridge Boys concert was last night and we did attend. I tossed around the decision to attend or not and decided that my attendance (or not) wouldn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

This may seem like an odd way to begin a post, and I’ve written (but not posted) a message on mortality but now it is so much more poignant and appropriate. You see, my mom had a massive stroke this past Sunday, changing everything and bringing the thought of mortality to the forefront of my mind. My attendance – or not - at the concert last night wouldn’t change the fact that she is lying in a hospital bed in another state. We did enjoy ourselves and probably needed that time to get away from the stress of the unknown. I’m not in a giveaway frame of mind right now so I’ll have to postpone that until a later time. I have two people who posted about their “star” dreams and since they are both so good, I’m sending each of you a prize. I promise. Just not right now.

What I wrote on mortality on September 4 but never got around to posting (additions in red are my thoughts today on what I wrote then):

I never really considered my own mortality before but the older I get – and the older my children get – makes ignoring it more difficult to do. People are born, and die, every day. My time will come when God decides that it is here. My father passed away in 2005 but he had really been “given” 18 extra years in his life following a near-fatal heart attack in 1987. Luckily, he’d had a quadruple by-pass in June and then suffered the heart attack in July. His doctor said if he’d had the heart attack first, there would not have been a by-pass surgery. He was only 56 when he had the heart attack – the same age I am now. He was 74 when he died and I did not connect his death to my own mortality. (Back then, my mom would always say that Dad didn’t feel well and this made him grumpy. I told her to make him go to the doctor and she said that he wouldn’t go. I told her to make him an appointment and when he got home from work, to tell him to get into the car. She took my advice and on a Friday in June took him to the doctor. The doctor wanted to admit him to the hospital that day but my dad refused. He made Dad promise to not lift anything heavier than a coffee cup all weekend and scheduled him for by-pass surgery for the following Monday. The accurate diagnosis by the doctor saved his life.)

My mom turned 82 last week and I turned 56 two days later. I saw my mom the weekend before her birthday and although she didn’t look as bad as she has in the past, she feels worse than she has in a while. She goes to kidney dialysis three times a week and that is really sapping her strength and energy. It’s impossible to look a loved one in the eyes and not wonder about his/her – and your own – mortality. I worry about the length of time we have left with her. I worry about the quality of that time. I’d like to turn back time and do or say all the things that should have been said or done – and take away the things that should not have been said or done. If I could turn back time, I’d have gone to visit more, said I love you more, and asked if there were more things I could have done for her. If I could turn back time, I’m not sure exactly what I would do but I hope that I would do things differently. I’d apologize for things said (or left unsaid), things done (or not done) in the heat of the moment, and for where I had failed to live up to the hopes and dreams that she had for us. If I could turn back time, I’d sit down and have her tell me stories of her life – and put them on paper for my children to read. I bought her a book one time that was a sort of “fill in the blank” and she didn’t want to fill it in; she said none of us would really be interested in the minutia of her life. She was very wrong. If I could turn back time, I’d cherish listening to those details and ask for more.

I know my mom is proud of all of her children (there were seven of us) but she wasn’t (and still isn’t) one for flowery speeches or gushy shows of affection. It took me a lot of years to understand that her lack of “show” did not equate to a lack of feeling. As an adult myself, I’ve learned more about feelings – hiding and showing – than I ever thought I’d learn. I may not say much (when I could) but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel deeply. I’m sure this probably explains my mom pretty accurately. We were each raised in households where feelings weren’t discussed or shown. It was expected – and understood – that we would love each other and get along, not only with each other but also with others outside of the family unit. I posted an analogy of a tree today on my Facebook page. I won’t bore you with all of the details (the original message came from Tyler Perry so you could search for him on FB and read what he wrote) but give you a shortened version of it. People are like trees. You have some leaves, weaker, blown around by the wind, and when the winds change, they’re usually gone and out of your life without really being the type of supportive person you need. Then you have your limbs, which are stronger than the leaves but like them, if you pile on too much weight they break easily and are also gone from your life. These two groups of people have purpose in your life but they’re not the ones you go to if you need support and help. The final group of people is the roots – in the background, often unseen and without drawing attention to themselves, providing us with the support, encouragement, and nourishment in every way they can. My mom is the strongest “root” I know and the knowledge that her earthly presence and wisdom may soon be gone from us is a chilling fact and is causing this “tree” to lean.

There were definite times when this did not happen. It is sad to realize that as we all get older, we may not be there for each other in the way that we could – and maybe should. There are friends that have come and gone; relationships that have ended just because people have drifted apart and other relationships that were damaged due to the actions of one or more people. Some relationships were never meant to be and should be ended. Others should be mended; forgiveness should be extended. Forgiveness is as much, or more, for the person offering forgiveness as it is for the one being forgiven. I have a lot of actions that I need to be forgiven for and I hope that I’ve asked for it from all I needed. Instead of wondering (in some cases) where/what/how I went wrong, I just have to accept that some relationships may never be mended. We may need to re-cultivate our root system to include others, but not diminishing the role of the ones who were there before. Broken trees can re-build and just as a damaged tree bends and changes with time, I know that I will also change and grow as time passes. I may not always have my mother to lean on but I can always lean on her strength, her love, and the wisdom that she has passed down to us.


joanne said...

Oh Teresa, I am so very sorry. I am keeping your mom in my thoughts and your family in my heart. What will be, will mom's famous last words. Take care dear one.

colenic said...

Thinking of you and your mom...sending positive thoughts and lots of peace to you all.

orchid said...

Dearest Teresa,
Hi! My brave lady; my father gave me the same thoughts (mortality) several time lately (like aspiration pneumonitis). He is 87 now not recognizing me...
Well, always hard to see the parents who we thought all-around persons getting old and weak, isn't it☆☆☆
You are always in my thoughts and prayers !!!
Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

Lois said...

I'm turning 50 on the 15th, and I keep thinking about my eldest sister Mildred who died at 56 from cancer. She seemed so old to me back when I was in my 30s, but my ideas of mortality [and age!] have changed as the years have passed. I am glad you went to the concert, because you know that life goes on, and people who love us want us to have joy. I am so sorry that your mother suffered a stroke, it is hard to see our loved ones brought down by stroke. Nurture yourself! L

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What beautiful thoughts on our family tree and how we are connected. I'm so sorry you're going through this tough stuff with her. Hugs to you Teresa.

Pat said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mother.I am thinking of you both.

thisisme said...

What a lovely post my friend, and I particularly liked the bits you had written in red. We should all tell our family that we love them - none of us know how much time we have left. I'm 65 now, but I try not to think about it too much. Just let's say that time is going by far too quickly for me! I don't like it. I was so very sorry to hear about your mum Teresa. You are both in my prayers, and I pray that she will make a good recovery. Please keep us posted. Sending hugs your way.