Monday, November 17, 2008

Chatter withdrawal

For days, I've wanted to find a few minutes to write.

Nothing profound, of course, just words.

Hardly seems like I've lived without jotting down some thoughts and then expounding on them just to hear myself think.

Ego? Yeah, no doubt. I've always loved seeing my name in print at the top of an article I wrote. Guess that's what keeps writers writing.

But there's also the communication side of it. I've never been one to keep things to myself. Self-disclosing, I think the shrinks call it. A healthy willingness to share, I'd rather say.

The world according to the Smith family has been topsy-turvy since the last post.

Howard's mother is in the hospital facing major surgery this week. What will happen afterward depends on how the operation goes and what doctors give as a prognosis. She is frightened but determined to do what must be done. Howard and I are exhausted and worried for her, as we watch the ordeals she endures day after day without benefit of a positive outlook. Prayers from friends and family pour in, for which we are very grateful.

I watch all of this from the vantage point of one whose own mother died of breast cancer when she was 56 and I was 31. Seems forever since I had a mother of my own to worry about. We never went through the elder-care routines for her, so I'm a novice at caring for someone so ill.

And amid all the medical talk and test procedures, both Howard and I realize we are next in the grand scheme of things.

Death doesn't frighten me, since I believe passionately in the next phase of living ... although unknown, still comforting in its certainty. Suffering, growing old and infirm, losing my independence, relying on others for my every need .... this is what frightens me. I jokingly (perhaps) tell my daughters to park me in a nursing home, visit when they can and go on with their lives rather than suffer the disruption caring for someone causes. Then I laugh and warn them I might take a header into a bridge abutment at 70 miles an hour and save them all the trouble.

Jokes don't really make anything better. I am growing old in a hurry, it seems, since years now fly instead of merely pass as they did before I hit 50.

At 67, I realize my time will be here sooner rather than later. I don't dwell on it a lot, but it's really impossible to avoid coming face to face with the reality every time some new horror visits itself on my mother-in-law.

So ... the plan is to live every day to the fullest possible. Hug the grandchildren, stay close to friends and don't let a day go by without saying "I love you" to those whom I need to hear it. I may not be the world's best caregiver (far from it!) but I'm learning how to behave when it's my turn to accept the ministries of others. Not an easy lesson. Certainly nothing I ever contemplated too seriously.

Now, though, it's simply a reality.


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