Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Tougher than I think

9 Comments

She is doing better.

C.C. and I went to visit my mother last night. We were later than anticipated. We both had early evening meetings and by the time we met up, neither of us had had dinner (or lunch for that matter). So we stopped at one of our favourite French Bistro’s and shared a glass of wine, delicious food and stories of our day.

Seated at our window table, we watched people run through a sudden downpour, skipping over puddles and dodging umbrellas of passers-by. We watched a man stop his car in the middle of the street, get out and have a conversation with someone on the sidewalk as the drivers behind him veered around, waving arms and honking horns. A visibly homeless man pushed a shopping cart overloaded with personal possessions, stopping every once in a while to rummage through streetside garbage bins. Dog-owners, home from work, walked their soggy pooches along the street as those ill-prepared for the rain, gave up all pretense of trying to stay dry and simply kept walking as if it didn’t matter.

After dinner, we drove to the hospital to visit my mom and found her in much better spirits than when I’d seen her yesterday.

The pain is gone, she told us, her tiny body wrapped in a hospital blue blanket. They had moved her from the floor she was originally on to a ‘medical’ ward. Her bed is by the window, where she could look out at the grey, sodden world and be happy to be warm and dry inside.

Talkative, chatty, (she loves it when handsome men come to visit) she shared tidbits of her day. In her hands that fluttered while she spoke, and her voice that rose and fell with the lilting singsong of her French accent she has never quite lost, I caught glimmers of the woman she used to be before depression carved its way into her daily routine.

Chatty, curious, and very sweet, my mother was always filled with little conversations about people she’d met and things she’d seen throughout her day. She’d often wonder about this person or that, why they did, this or that, what happened to create this or how did that become. As loss and time dug away at her peace of mind, her world moved from outwardly focused to internally centric ruminations that devolved again and again around the things that have happened that hurt her. And, with the narrowing of her perspective, her capacity to see beyond the personal, narrowed too. Never adept at shaking off lifes arrows (she has a very gentle, sensitive heart), her capacity to handle life’s travails lessened as her worldview shrank.

It has been the sad reality of the narrowing of her world. From daily happenings that involved giving to others and sharing her talents, time and treasures with the world, her life has become a singular focus on the immediate world around her, a place where the past is the only place she can visit to be reminded of the meaning she once had in a life to which she gave her best and created meaning in her doing.

I see it whenever I visit the lodge where she lives. Once broad lives narrowing down to singular focus on days filled with card-playing, gossip, meals together and routine that seldom varies from the calendar posted on the wall announcing various  ‘space filler’ activities designed to keep minds and bodies active — with little opportunity for external connections to be made and maintained.

I hear it in the voices of the well-intentioned staff who give their all to ensure the residents are well-cared for and tended to, but who inevitably use the same voice they’d use to speak to children.

And I am reminded of what one woman told me at the homeless shelter where I used to work when I was explaining to her about a video we were shooting. “Just because I’m hard of hearing doesn’t mean I’m stupid, dear,” she said after I’d consciously chosen simple words to explain the project.

I have been condescending with my mother in the past. While not intentional, I have given her my 13 year-old attitude assuming that age has rendered her incapable of understanding the simplest of things. At 13 I thought she was incapable of understanding life. I thought she was fragile, naive, old-fashioned and not with the times. Funny thing is, back then, she knew more than I thought and was tougher than I gave her credit for.

No surprise, at 92, she’s still tougher than I think.

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Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

9 thoughts on “Tougher than I think

  1. They do surprise us don’t they! We have this vision of who our mother is, yet we have never experienced and seen all aspects of her as a woman.
    Mine loves the attention from good looking young doctors and caring nurses. It makes her feel special again.

    Val x

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    • That is so true Val — my vision of who my mother is cannot encompass all she is– it is one of those reciprocity agreements of life — we can never imagine all someone else is, just as they cannot imagine all we are — and it is in those inbetween spaces the mystery exists! 🙂

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  2. Sometimes I seriously wonder about how lodges are designed. We put a bunch of seniors together in one place; I can see how that would be depressing and how one might only be able to look back to find meaning. I think older folks need to be surrounded by all age groups, the laughter of children, etc., and I think they have a lot to offer younger people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s that we’re missing out on.

    So glad you caught a glimpse of the chatty and animated mom you used to know Louise.
    Diana xo

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  3. This narrowing world you speak of is such a sad thing to watch in our loved ones. I’ve seen it all too many times. Wouldn’t it be lovely if our care facilities didn’t just watch over the physical, but also challenged the mental and emotional aspects of the aged. How we treat our elderly says a lot about a nation. We’ve got the basics, but it could be so much more. Love and Light, my dear.

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  4. My parents are both living those narrow lives. To some extent they always did. So wounded by their childhoods they lived lives of caution, always expecting the boom to fall. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I can see that they had more toughness than I credit them for just to get to 89. So glad to hear your Mom is feeling a little better.

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  5. Getting to 89 — together. Wow Leigh. That is quite a feat! My mother too has the ‘what will life do next’ perspective — she prepares for the worst, always has. 🙂 Hugs to you.

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  6. That is quite an accomplishment. Reaching 92.

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