I spent last week in South Carolina with my parents and my brother.
The original foursome.
My father, brother and I have been facing the inevitable for close to a year,
trying to figure out the right time, the perfect fit; and gathering the courage
to set the wheels in motion.
My mother has vascular dementia.
Her memory issues have become significant and her care was consuming
my 80-year-old father.
It might have been simpler, in some ways, for things at their home to remain
the same, but we had made the difficult decision to move her into memory care
in an upstate retirement community.
Now, it was showtime.
Driving South on 85, earlier that week, I could feel a low-grade current of
anxiety running through my body. The move date had been on the calendar
for a month and I was determined to set aside other demands in my life for
this short time and focus, solely, on my parents.
Anticipating this looming reality, I reminded myself to stay in the present
moment and just breathe.
Don’t predict the outcome.
Leave space for not-knowing.
Too often, we decide how an event is going to play out before we even
give it a chance to gradually unfold. We like immediate answers. We like
predictable outcomes because they spare us from experiencing the
uncomfortable feeling of not knowing.
Memory-care, I’d predicted, equals sadness. Did I know this for sure ?
Sad as this change might be, hopefully it would be a reprieve for my father,
whose daily routine had become shaped by her constant supervision.
For me and my brother, there was comfort in knowing our mother would
be safe and supported and our father, who has more energy than we do,
could take back a part of his active life.
We’d all come back together and taken our places in what Anne Morrow Lindbergh calls, the oyster bed, in her book, Gift From The Sea.
I found a copy when I was gathering things to take to Mom’s new home.
First published in 1955, it is still so relevant today.
I wore my highlighter out as I reread it.
The oyster bed is Lindbergh’s metaphor for a growing, ever-changing family.
“It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with
accumulations and, in its living state – firmly imbedded on its rock.”
And of a woman’s role in that oyster bed, she says this:
“Distraction is … inherent in a woman’s life … We must be open to all points
of the compass; husband, children, friends, community; stretched out,
exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each
call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the
midst of those contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal
forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what
shocks come in the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”
On the one week anniversary of this move, my mother appears to be
settling in to a new living state and demonstrating acceptance, grace
and serenity – in her true fashion.