Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mercy Softened The Edges

"If that's the last time I talk to her am I okay with how that went?"

That's the question I asked myself after my weekly phone call to my mom this past Saturday. Yesterday she was scheduled for a pretty invasive medical test. I spent much of that weekly phone call listening to my mom read me several pages of information the hospital had sent her. As I listened to her read I was torn between listening to her and wanting to put the phone down to go check on supper, which was in danger of burning in the oven. I told myself that I wasn't going to interrupt her, in what may be our final conversation, and that a burnt supper wasn't the end of the world.

Funny how much more considerate I can be when I think you may die the next day.

My mom has spent her life being stoic (in capital letters.) She doesn't need anyone, ever. She had a different medical test last month and told me she was scared. Well, she didn't actually say she was scared. She said the the test was scary, because she could have a heart attack during it. A very real possibility.

It was so surreal to listen to this woman, who I lived in fear of my whole childhood, be vulnerable and admit, in a round about way, her fear. She is so self sufficient that when she got sent to the hospital several years ago and was hooked up to 5 different machines within a few minutes of arriving, she told my dad to go home, that there was no reason to wait around, while, you know, she died. She didn't die but might have had she not been sent by her doctor to the hospital. I told dearest one that I hoped she didn't send my dad home yesterday because if something happened, he would get the news over the phone.

I did not want to get bad news over the phone either. I have a tendency to put life on hold when I'm waiting to see what the outcome is going to be. It could be the outcome of the World Curling Championship or it could be the outcome of a scary, invasive medical test that my mom was having. I'm not picky. When I was a kid I made it through by waiting for the future, instead of being in the here and now. Living in the moment is still my biggest challenge.

I was worried something would go wrong and it would be lights out for my mom. Yesterday I knew I could either waste all my energy worrying about what might happen or I could put that energy into what was right in front of me, which was dealing with staff and students. I asked God to be merciful to my mom and let her live. Then I realized that dying might be more merciful. How did I know? Which brought me right back to praying, Thy will be done. I told myself on the way to work that God would supply whatever graces needed, whatever happened.

And nothing happened.

When I phoned my mom last night her voice sounded rough, but she came through okay. Said she never wanted to have that test again, though, thank you very much. My dad had cooked her a lovely supper and she was taking it easy as per doctor's orders. She said she wasn't taking the pills they presribed though and she was telling her doctor that when she saw her in a week. When a person's being feisty there's not too much to worry about.

When I was newly sober I hated my mom. I worried that if my mom called me during that time I would have screamed an unending scream of hatred over the phone at her. I blamed my alcoholism, my being an abusive mother, my inability to feel anything other than rage, on her. Eventually, (that word tidily sums up 20 years of healing) I made my peace with her and took responsibility for who I had become. That peace didn't hinge on her doing anything at all. It didn't condone her behaviour, as if it had never happened, either.

However, when I stopped holding my own behaviour against myself, stopped defining myself by my past, I was faced with the decision to stop holding hers against her, too. I felt like I had been tricked when that realization hit me. I wanted to clutch my new found mercy to my chest with one hand while holding the other hand out in front of me like a stop sign, protesting about the unfairness of being tricked into seeing that mercy received flows outward into mercy extended. I wanted to have a little temper tantrum about that. Slowly mercy softened the edges of my hatred until the day came when I saw my mom as my equal.

I can't imagine my mom as an old lady, vulnerable to caregivers, etc. Her own mother killed herself at age 90 to avoid that being her fate. My sisters and I have talked about the possibility of my mom choosing to do the same thing one day.

I don't know what to write about how I feel about that possible outcome other than I hope she chooses life. This post has gone in a totally different direction than when I started writing it so I'm going to change the subject.

That nice little piece of glass in the photo above hangs in my kitchen window. I took comfort in it yesterday.

In between bouts of worry.


Owen said...

I call my mom once a week too. I worry for her some too. She's 79 now and things are changing. Thankfully, my sis lives in the same little village. Brotherly love to you and yours

Kathy M. said...

What an amazing post. I'm grateful for whatever turn your intention took.

I also had tremendous resentments against my mom going into recovery. Letting go of them also had nothing to do with any actions she took. She had already died by then.

I'm tempted to regret that at times, but I know there's no benefit to regretting the past. It's just what happened, and maybe sharing it can help someone else.

Thanks for sharing your today.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

Hope...your name is suiting today...it is the hope that we have and the faith that we hold that all is the way it is to be, even when it's not our way.

I can relate to this post greatly. I listen each day/night to a close friend of mine and her details, and today I'm grateful I can, but I am a natural worrier.

Thank you for softening my edges today.

Thank you for your blogs, your posts mean so much to me.

Black Pete said...

Your mom might be doing some of that reflecting herself.

Lisa said...

mmm... was good to read this. thanks.

Mary Christine said...

If I may be so bold as to "judge" you - this post is recovery from alcoholism at its finest. Where the rubber hits the road - in real life with real people. The real difficult people who God has put in our lives.

Bless you, and bless your mom.

And thank you so much. I needed to read this tonight.

annieoddflower said...

I love that "nice little piece of glass" and I love this post! I gain so much from your hard-earned wisdom, Hope. :) Thank you!

anj said...

Eventually - that is a huge word. A while ago, I made the decision that I want to do the work now to be able to mourn my mother when she dies. Your post gives me Hope. Thanks.

Marla said...

This is a beautifully written post. Your transparency is such a wonderful gift. Thank you!

I also struggle with living in the moment. I think it is a common problem among many.

As for "Funny how much more considerate I can be when I think you may die the next day" .... I laughed out loud because I GET THIS!