My day began with an act of service. A friend is moving, his apartment is emptied and he needed a ladder, coffee and a sweet to get his day rolling and the cleaning finished. By nine I had delivered and was moving on with my day — and that’s when everything changed.
I chatted with my sister who told me our mother wasn’t feeling well. I’ll just drop over and say hello on my way home, I told her and she informed me that the nurse had suggested taking mom to the Emergent Care Centre. “I’m cancelling my lunch so I can go do that,” she said.
“Don’t,” I replied. “I can do it.”
Now, let me explain. My eldest sister is my 90-year-old mother’s primary care giver. I have always kept my distance. Full-time work, two daughters and a not too harmonious relationship with my mother have always stood in my way. Plus, my sister is ‘better at dealing with her’, I’ve told myself. And mom prefers her anyway.
To spend a day with my mother in an emergency room, to simply be present, was a blessing, and a gift. It let me be of service to both my sister and my mom, and it gave my sister a much-needed break from the stress and strain of caring for a 90-year-old woman whose need for attention is sometimes exhausting.
As I sat in the curtained cubicle while my mother napped and I read emails on my iPhone and read blogs I’ve been meaning to catch up on, I listened to the goings on all around me and was drawn again to what connects us all in our shared experience of this human condition. A need for belonging, for community, for a sense of relevance in a sometimes irreverent and inexplicable world.
In the cubicle next to us a daughter joined her father who had been brought in by ambulance mid-afternoon. “Why on earth would you come here?” she asked. “The EMS guys thought this would be faster,” her father explained. “Harumph,” replied the daughter. “It would have been better if you’d gone to emergent care in the south. I had a meeting at that end of the city, which I missed to come here to get you.” Silence. “And now I find out you haven’t even been seen by the doctor yet.” “Thank you for coming,” he replied. “I missed my meeting for you.” And suddenly, a man who had been garrulous and pleasant became taciturn and complaining. “Where is that doctor? Did they lose him?” “I notice there seem to be a lot of regulars in the waiting area,” the daughter said. “You know, those people who are just coming in for attention. They don’t really have much need for service.”
Really, I wondered. How does she know?
Bless her. Forgive me.
Let me not slip into criticism, complaints and condemnation.
My mother is okay. A flu bug, a series of mis-communications with the staff at the lodge where she lives and she spent a day without eating. The ensuing confusion and paranoia were a direct result of her state of being dehydrated. Seven hours later, an IV, fluids into her system and she is as right as rain, or as right as rain as a 90-year-old woman can be.
And I am better for the experience. My sister carries the lions share of caring for my mother without complaint, with love and attention. It was a gift to be able to do something of value for her. And, it doesn’t take much to give my mother, this woman who brought the seed of my life into this world, a sense of well-being, of feeling heard, feeling visible, feeling wanted.
And what better way to give back than to let her know, I see you. I hear you. I acknowledge you, whatever your state of being.