The Circle Of Life
The circle of life. This phrase holds a new meaning for me today. For the first time I find myself in the role of caregiver for my mother, who at 89 is in the moderate stage of dementia. We live at opposite ends of the country, I am here to relieve my sister. In my own neck of the woods I was caregiver for a grandson since he was a baby, which ironically prepared me well for this experience.
I am used to going slow, giving little feet time to catch up. To offering a steadying hand on curbs, and having extra watchful eyes when crossing streets. To being ready to offer assistance with shoes and buttons, but not interfering until necessary. To giving gentle reminders to wash hands after using the bathroom. To praising works of art created in coloring books. To telling stories and singing songs at bedtime.
I have been blessed with the gift of patience and am particularly grateful for it now in this new role. And I am grateful for the opportunity to extend it to the wonderful woman who taught it to me through example in the first place. Her cornflower-blue eyes have faded, her body wizened and shrunken with age, but the kindness and gentleness she has always embodied is there still. And the love is still palpable.
Now I am the one doing the tucking in, kissing her head and wishing sweet dreams as she did for me so long ago. I am the one endlessly nagging her to get out of bed in the morning, as she did for me in my teen years. Together we look at pictures and videos of her great-grandchildren, and marvel at their beauty and charm, and I am thankful for the technology that permits this and face-time visits with my/her little ones so far away.
Today she held my hand, looked into my eyes, and told me she wished I was her real daughter. Summoning the courage she instilled in me I thanked her, gently corrected her and held her tight, fighting the tears and reminding myself to focus on the love behind the words.
It is only a short visit, just 10 days. 10 days to lovingly convey how much she means to me, and how I have tried to live up to the exemplary example she set. 10 days to assure her I have a happy life and share snippets of it through stories about my children and grandchildren. 10 days to pack in as much love as I can, not knowing if I will be blessed with another opportunity, or if I am, if she will still know me.
Today I am feeling the circle of life. I feel it roll relentlessly onward. One day, perhaps I will be the one old and frail, dependent on the love and protection of my children. I think of how quickly the years have passed on this journey of life, and reflect on the many changes in my life and of those still to come.
I see so clearly that love is the only thing worthy of our time and energy. The only thing of any true value in this world. Yet another lesson my mother taught me. Amidst all the twists and turns and changes still to come I will remember there are those who are watching me to see how to navigate life, and strive to set the fine example she did. And when I fly back home and resume my own life again, I will remember these 10 days with my mother.