Looking back and thinking forward

Month: February, 2014

And now … coffee …

Lately I have been thinking about my dear friend, Charlie. A few days before he died, I was visiting him in hospital when the nurse brought him a cup of coffee. He tried to take a sip and then laid back on his pillow exhausted. "And now … coffee," he said softly with resignation. I sensed a sob caught in the back of my throat. I knew what he meant. I could not imagine what it must have felt like not to be able to drink or enjoy coffee any more. One more thing that he would never do again.

That image has remained with me for the past thirteen years. It comes up at different moments in my life. Always as a reminder to enjoy whatever it is I am doing, because one day I will never do it again. Loss is like that. One moment later it is over and will never happen again. On and off over the past thirteen years since Charlie's death, I have experienced regret about things I could, would, should have done in my relationship with him. Moments that slipped through our fingers – our time together as close, dear friends. For example, I have never gotten over leaving him alone that last Friday night after we had moved him to Hospice. I felt intuitively that I should stay with him. There was no rhyme or reason. In fact, he had seemed quite well, sitting up in his bed watching base ball on the television with a number of close, old friends and family members in the room. He wore his glasses and even seemed content. There was one moment when I looked up and he seemed to be staring at me. I held his gaze, as voices of friends talking and laughing about this, that and baseball buzzed about my head. I wondered what he was thinking or feeling, and I thought to myself that I should not leave him alone that night. In the end I kissed him on his forehead, whispered goodbye, and glanced a farewell at the flowers I had brought him to brighten up and welcome him to his new Hospice bed. At three or four in the morning, his daughter called to tell me he had died. All I could think about was that I had not followed my heart and stayed with him during those final hours.

Regret is just too painful for words, and honestly, as I edge my way towards age 65 in the next three months or so, I know that I have no more time for feeling sorry about past transgressions. When I take that final sip of coffee, as Charles did – I want to feel satisfied, and complete – at peace.

These past couple of weeks I have had to shovel enormous amounts of snow. Some, light and fluffy, some wet, icy and heavy as lead. Often the temperatures are so cold that the tips of my fingers squeal in pain until I vehemently shake out my hands to get the blood circulating again warming them back to work. A few days ago, after shoveling my long driveway for an hour or so, I joined the neighbors next door to help them shovel theirs, so that one of them could get out to work on time. My back and arms were starting to ache and I felt a stiffness in my neck that begged me to stop. I rested for a moment with my arms on the top of the shovel, and looked out at the piles of snow that still had to be moved away from the pavement. I was exhausted. And then suddenly, the memory of Charlie bidding farewell to his beloved coffee for the last time rose up to greet me. I thought to myself, "This could be the last time I ever shovel snow again!" I realized that it was fun lugging and schlepping, laughing and chatting with my neighbors, and resumed the work, with the snow somehow now feeling lighter. Not only that, I felt a surge of energy that swept me off my feet. I continued shoveling for another half hour at least without feeling even a twinge of an ache.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Retaining the joy

Speaking of guilt …

Well, well. This time last year I created my new blog.

Always going to be more to explore.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: New adventures, new territory

Good mothering returns

Quote of the day:

We are driven for some bizarre reason by guilt. Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, responding about "The highs and lows of modern parenthood" with the author of: All Joy and No Fun

A couple of mornings ago I remembered that it has been one year since I started writing this blog, and realized I have written only nine posts since I began last February. With snow falling and school canceled, I had time to greet the day slowly by preparing myself breakfast and turning on the television to see the last fifteen minutes of Morning Joe.  Jennifer Senior happened to be talking about her book: "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood." What a coincidence, I thought to myself. What are the odds of my remembering a blogaversary about the guilt of being a good parent, just as school is canceled, I have time to catch the last section of the morning news show exactly at the moment they are all discussing guilt and parenthood? Even on a morning show, the host describes how, as a parent, he is driven by guilt. I was amused by how he called it bizarre.

"Why would it be bizarre?" I thought to myself. After all, there are so many guilt inducing sources! As a parent, I constantly judge myself based on my son's accomplishments or happiness. I have been working with parents and guardians of children for over forty years, and have observed them doing the same. It seems we take credit for our children's successes, and feel like failures when they fail. Of course, we have influenced our children's emotional development. I have no doubt about that. But, when they become adults, are our children never to become their own person? At which point do they own their accomplishments and happiness, joys and sorrows? When can I say, "This has nothing to do with me – it belongs to him?" Am I to blame forever?

I think of my poor mother. At age ninety seven, bed-ridden and fragile. Recently, when my older brother tragically died, she lay in her bed sleeping away the days and nights, waking only now and then telling a tale about a small boy lost in a crowd, needing ointment for a rash. I sat by her bedside for hours as she described her anxiety about that small boy, and I promised to take care of him for her. As we pinned up a photograph of my late brother on the wall by her bed, close to her pillow, she looked up at it and stroked it lovingly. And then she said, "I should have gone there, rented a flat and helped him through those last months." Even as I gently tried to convince her that it was impossible for her to do that, and only natural she would feel that way about her ailing son, I could tell my words were of little comfort.

There is no rational or logical thought about parenting. We always feel responsible for our children's well-being – even if we are 97 with a 70-year-old son. Sometimes I rage at those self-help parenting guides with authors so completely sure about what is the exact right way to parent. For, all they do is reinforce the belief that no one knows how to parent correctly. They feed into our insecurities about our most important relationships. I constantly wonder how I can help teachers understand that they have enormous power to empower parents instead of judge and criticize them. Parents would benefit greatly if only we tried to understand how guilty they feel – how unsure they are about what is the right thing to do for their children. Parents really do need our support for them to love their children subjectively, unconditionally, and emotionally. 

A year ago at The Good Mother: Dedicated to Carrie