Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Fall 2017 A Time of Change

23 Oct

Sometimes we suddenly know what to do next. Solutions just come down to us as a message from outside ourselves. Some might say it is divine, others simply point to inspiration from our own inner selves. It really does not matter. The point is to follow when the directions are given.

Lately this happened to me as I swam peacefully doing “lengths” all alone one morning. I have been torn lately by my desire to be in my house in Charlottesville Virginia and by the necessity of being in Washington DC with my charming and healthy 99 year old mother. Her friends are mostly gone and she is lonely. What a dilemma! No matter in which place I found myself there was always a pull to be in the other location.

Then that September morning as I swam, it suddenly came to me. The Serenity Prayer which I first heard at a High School assembly, popped into my mind. I am sure you know it:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The sentiments involved in that prayer have guided me over and over in my life but sometimes, I need a little push. That is what I got that day in the cool, gentle water, under a clear blue sky. A thunderbolt of an idea that has sent me on a difficult path. I understood that I cannot do anything about my aging mother and her need for entertainment and management of her help. That is out of my hands. But what I can do is stop being divided in my attention. It is entirely in my power to give up my house in Charlottesville and move permanently to live full time with Mother in Washington DC.

As I write this, I am in Charlottesville moving out of my house to live in Washington DC.  But I got sick last week when I first came down here.  REALLY SICK. I am sure it was psychological because it is wrenching to move and to give away my things.

Deciding to divest myself of my things was a big decision which I did not consider for much more than an instant. I just knew immediately that it was the right thing to do.

I am making space, making space in my life for whatever is coming next. As I keep telling friends and family, it is very liberating.  But of course there is a huge sense of loss of a former self and a host of memories associated with each object, each piece of furniture, each set of china, each lamp, painting and rug and every piece of silver….So, even if I am completely happy about the move and about giving these possessions away….There is still an emotional wrench.

So I got sick.  Now my health has improved and though there is still a lingering cough and congestion.  Because I could not go back to Mother’s house with that horrible cold/flu I have stayed in Charlottesville all week.  So I am almost finished with my moving out. What a sense of satisfaction I shall have at the end. I am almost there!

The Oak Tree

12 Jun

All of it’s branches reach out.  Stretching skyward, slender or stout, shortened, truncated by man, or extending far from the center, those branches leafed out in June, shade the ground. Within green cooled air, lightly sighing leaf sounds compete with the twitter of  birds who fight for space on the bird feeders placed under the canopy. That tree has anchored the place since 200 years before the birth of my mother.

It has a name. The Dumblane Oak. It is a landmark and well known by many in the early 20th century. But that was another century.

Now, cracks are showing in the bark. New ones, that were not there even a couple of weeks ago. The end is near. The giant oak is completely hollow, though huge and gnarly, it is gently dying. The root structure is gone to the east and south east. Will it last another 3 weeks? NOT sure.

What a legacy. Power in a tree. Magnificent, majestic, mighty this tree calls alliteration to mind, even though trite, the fit is there. There are few like it. And none that grace the yard of a private home in the middle of the capital of the United States of America. This huge, stolid trunk is weakening from the inside. Though we who love it want to believe it will outlive us, we can see that it is almost gone into legend. Though it still stands, reaching to the sky and thick with leaves, the underpinnings of the tree are gone. Where once roots burrowed under the ground and interfered with growing lawn, the carpet is thick and green, with fast growing grass.

Overlooking my childhood that oak tree stood sentinel. Glancing at it sideways, it was just “there”. Shading our front yard in hot Washington DC summers, we were grateful for the coolness beneath those spreading arms.  Yet, unconsciously the presence as a constant gave stability to my growing years until we left to live in Europe.  Then I missed it.  Then we had a smooth grass circle in front of the Embassy and it seemed naked. How I missed my home with the fabulous leafy tree, unlike any other that I knew. I longed for the thick trunk and overreaching green leafed canopy, the acorns in the fall, the bare branches silloetted  against the winter sky, the thousands of spring tassles that preceded the early leafing out.

I loved that tree. We all loved it and we all still do. It frightens us to imagine the space without it. How strange that would/ will be. How unsettling and unusually bright. The entire house would change for the worse, or at least for a very different aspect. But life goes on.  The land will still be there when the tree is gone. Someone will tear down the house once called “Underoak” and build something made of steel and glass. An office building? An embassy? An addition to the American University campus? Will I live to see this change?

I am alive and well and living with my mother

4 May

I am alive and well and living with my mother
The Dancing Queen

The Dancing Queen

My Mother is 98 years old. She is beautiful and cheerful. But things are changing for her as she becomes more frail and less able to participate in the activities that kept her young. For instance she loved to play golf, and she starred at croquet, but her balance is not what it once was and she hates walking as a sport. Dancing was her very favorite. But now her partners are all gone and she, herself fears that loss of balance that might lead to a fall. Plus her legs are weak now, and she lost her stamina somewhere along the way.

I am posting a photo taken about 20 or so years ago. She outdid them all at that time. Joyful and living in the moment, she inspired others.

Now I must struggle to keep those positive memories alive as she ages in front of my eyes. It is hard to watch. However this is a fairly new development. She never seemed to age at all until well after she turned 90. I welcome others stories and comments because this learning process creates all sorts of angst and sadness for me. Mother seems fine about it. It is for me that the sadness causes my interactions with her to seem to take forever, and lack the old sparkle.

As I am here with her anyway, I am keeping a journal which is private of course. However some public discussion of the topic of aging parents may help all of us.

It creeps up on us, the loss of friends, the sagging flesh, and lack of zest for life, and the feeling of having time in the future to do what one still has not done. For those in their 90s time and/or energy left long ago. Watching birds feeding at the birdfeeders intrigues and even fascinates older people. They can stare for hours at the birds and exclaim over the colors and shapes as if they had never seen a bird before. Childlike pleasure in daily activities like the splashing of water over a “caregiver” while taking a shower, or watching the same slide show over and over as if it had never been seen before makes smiling a norm. Nothing negative mars the constant stream of caregiving aid and comforts handed out every hour of the day or night.

Lack of privacy bothers some who must live with constant supervision, but my Mother enjoys the company of others. She grew up an only child whose mother died when she was only 8 months old. Her friends were her lifeline augmented by a whole bunch of cousins who lived literally next door. Her life has been crowded with “company” and she enjoys that even now.

The Primaries have come and mostly gone and Mother is blissfully unaware of the infighting. But one day she asked me while we watched the news, “What do you think of him?” She was pointing to Donald Trump who was answering reporters questions. I said “I am not sure what I think.” And she said “I think he is brave.” I thought that showed she watched with at least a modicum of recognition even though she still does not really recognize any other contender for the presidency. After Indiana, she may not need to. But she cares not at all who wins the presidency in 2016.

Life goes on for her as the birds feed hungrily at the several feeders, two hanging ones and one attached to the house.
Let’s count them Mother, shall we?