Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What's the word for the caretaker at the end of life?

 When a person is put in the position of taking a young human, be it by birth; adoption; or life circumstances, to raise to self sustainability it's called parenting. What is it called when a person is put in the position of taking an old human to care for until they come to the end of their days? I can't find one word that sums that up to say what this process is the way "I am a parent" does for the opposite process. There ought to be a word for that.
 I have found myself in a position that I didn't think I would ever be in, caring for an elderly parent. My parents have both passed away.
     When my mother was ill, I lived several states away and was raising children. When I would talk about going to her and helping to take care of her, she and family members would say they had it under control and would let me know if they needed me. Mom would tell me to take care of my family.
     When my dad was ill, I was on the other side of the country. My family would say that they would let me know when they needed me to come. To wait until I was really needed. Then he was gone.
     I have described myself as "the bad child" for not taking care of my parents. I don't, honestly, believe that my parents would say that about me. It does show the guilt I feel for not being there for them when they needed care.
     My three, wonderful, sisters did a magnificent job of caring for our parents. The sacrifices they made will never be lost to me.
    Then, a couple of weeks ago, the tables turned. My partner's mother had a heart attack. Suddenly we were in the chaos of ER's; cardiologists; hospitalists; stents; pharmacies; and cardio rehab.
     We are thankful that she recognized the symptoms and called for help quickly. We are also thankful that we had just moved into our new home together and we have a place for her to stay until she stabilized.
     I never thought I would be pacing the ER floor over a parent. It is a strange place for me. While it certainly isn't what it would have been for my own parents; it has given me a stronger appreciation for my sisters support system. Husband, boyfriend, friends that rallied behind them and propped them up when they couldn't stand any more.
    As many people as we have helping us move into this next phase is phenomenal. We are learning the language of this new world and figuring out what works for our circumstances. There is an understanding of what this turn means. There have been discussions of last wishes and what to do when she's gone. It's a phase of life that I thought I was done with, I'm glad to be here in a support position. Still, there ought to be one word.

Then this:

I turned my head
For just a moment
A blink of the eye, really
An instant

I don't know how it happened
Seems that it was quick
Life being full of
Work, bills, days, holidays

I am not entirely sure,
Just that it took me by surprise
To turn around to find
You had gotten old

Not in numbers of years
That I understood,
In the person before me
That is you

Marking the occasions
Of first times once again.
Fear in your eyes, where
determination once lived

I knew it would happen
Someday had shown up
Caught us both unready
My heart begins to ache

You have turned down
The last road of life
I can only help you
Stay safe as you travel

Taking the car keys
Holding the bicycle seat
Grasping your hand
Supporting your head

The backward steps of dependence,
Of the end resembling the beginning,
Pretending you aren't dependent
Until we can't pretend any more

To say the child
Becomes the parent
Is not entirely true,
Parents get to keep their work


Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Writing From the Four Diretions" starts with making sure your compass is true.

     It is odd for me to not immediately write a review about a writing workshop that I have attended. I understand the value of feed back, good or bad. So for it to take me five months to write a review is an astounding amount of time. This review jumps back and forth from Trebor Healey and Saratoga Springs Retreat Center. The venue made the workshop complete. I'm sure it would work other places, but this is the way home feels to me. We'd be family anywhere, but this is our place.

     Writing From The Four Directions, lead by Trebor Healey (http://www.treborhealey.com/) was an event I had looked forward to for over a year. There were a lot of detours to getting there; so when I was finally at Saratoga Springs Retreat Center (http://www.saratogasprings.com/)it was surreal.

     There were three big things that made this especially poignant for me. First, I allowed myself to step away from home after losing my Dad. I feared that the grief I carried with me would distract from the experience. Second, spending money on my craft is something "professionals" do. Taking this trip was, to my thinking, taking a big step in my own view of my work. Third, being the first to do something; even when it is welcomed; is scary. More about that in a minute.

     So, I went. Checking off firsts along the way. The first time I left my state (or county for that matter) to go to a writing workshop. The first time I ever rented a car in my name and was the sole driver. Weird, I know. The first time, this is the biggie, a woman has ever attended "Writing From the Four Directions".
     Trebor and the staff at Saratoga Springs were as excited for me to be there as I was, but would the others be so happy. As we gathered, introducing ourselves individually, then formally in a circle, I remembered the old adage, "open with a joke". "I'm Laura, and I'm not a gay male." As the room erupted in laughter, we all became family.
     Those next few days together were times of trepidation in sharing work, bold honesty, lots of laughter, thought provoking poetry and prose, and tears. 
     Trails that wrap around the retreat center brought times of nurturing friendships and connecting with the earth that is so carefully preserved by the retreat center. Listening to the brook babble it's tales and the wind whistle it's song through the trees took me to a time when wagons and walking brought people to this spot. In the middle of the lawn there is a small plaque, commemorating the post that was there that started this town. I wonder what the trees would say about the people who may have planted them there. And the trees that were there before the people.
    The workshop was structured enough to keep us on track to explore writing exercises, yet loose enough to let the moment be the inspiration. Trebor did a wonderful job of orchestrating the movement of the group.
     As I got into my rental car to return to my life, there was peace that hadn't been with me for a while and joy in the connections I had made.
     So, why then has it taken so long to write this review? If it was all peaches and roses, why not write it right away?
     Time is a great truth teller.
     Trebor and I sat for a little while and looked at some of my poetry. He had taken them the night before and made notes. As we sat there he proceeded to do what Trebor does, he was honest. I listened and tried to ask good questions. But the truth is, my feminine ire rose up. I had not been told how great I am, funny right? No happy voices of assurance. He spoke to me the same way he would any of the guys. I will always be grateful for that.
     Returning home I ran a gambit of emotional responses. "I'm not good. Others have lied to me." Then, "What does he know? Others tell me it's good." Then, my all time favorite, "Who cares about any of this anyway?"
     I love Trebor. I didn't write this review immediately because I knew time would sift out the emotion until the fine powder of truth made the cake rich and fluffy.
     The truth is Trebor is a gay guy. I know, pretty revolutionary stuff right there. Before this two kinds of people had reviewed my poetry, women or straight guys. These two people groups tend to filter their comments through kindness or fear. They are honest, but don't want to hurt feelings; and they don't want a woman to go off on them for being told they need to work on it.
     Trebor wants me to be a better writer. Crazy, I know.
     Having sifted the truth I know a few things. Some of my writing is more feminine than I can explain to Trebor. Women get it without having to explain it. That's okay. Some of my writing is bad. That's okay. Some of my writing ends at a place I'm comfortable with, but he isn't. Neither is bad, it's just different. That's okay.
     What I've learned is to know my audience and write for them, without apologies. To listen to the voices around me, both audible human voices and the whispers and whirls around me. And kick down the box! Take my art to the least likely audience and respectfully listen to their feed back. People who like it, or are like me, will tell me what I want to hear. That's nice, but not helpful. Go where the honesty hurts, pain brings growth.
     I hope that more women will attend Trebor Healey's workshops. His talent for making blunt descriptors poetic and his eloquence in dealing with difficult subject matters, as in "A Horse Named Sorrow", make him a valuable teacher.
     Saratoga Springs Retreat Center is a wonderful setting. Enough creature comforts to be comfortable, but not so much that it detracts from the setting. The staff were all helpful, engaging, and fun. Arnna took very good care of all of us.
     What ever your art is I hope you will go to a place that is very different and learn from the time there. Nurture your mind and spirit to flourish in astounding ways. Find the hope of your art in the differences that surround you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Look up and find your peace

I got up early on my day off, in hopes of seeing the sunrise. As the day broke it became obvious that there would be no glorious sunrise, instead a blanket of fog hung just at the tree top line.

With a sigh of acceptance, mixed with a smirk of disappointment, I considered going back to bed. Nothing inspiring happening outside, and coffee brewing, I decided to open my computer. As I scrolled around, something caught my eye outside. I looked up in time to watch an eagle gliding over the choppy water, likely looking for breakfast. Then I saw it, the inspiration I had thought would come in the form of a glorious sunrise.

The choppy water.

Early this week I was talking to someone about the fact that knowing that someone else has it worse than you does not diminish the importance of the problems you have. Every one has choppy water, some are minor swells, others are major storms; but everybody has them.

The thing about churning water is that eventually the tide will turn and there will be treasure on the shore. Some of what the churning brings will be trash. As we walk with our heads down, contemplating the churning of life, we need to keep a sharp eye for the good that's come of the storm. If we take time to walk slowly through it there will be beautiful shells and bright sea glass that add beauty and color to our lives.

Today's beauty and inspiration is not in the glorious, breathtaking color of a sunrise. Today it's the quiet gray mist, floating just above the trees and the light breeze churning up the gray/blue waters.

In it I find peace and inspiration, because I looked up. Look up and find your peace.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Meditation From My Walk Through the Valley

The path to where you want to be is usually through the last place you want to go. But when you get to where you hoped to go, you know that you can go anywhere. That's when the value of the journey far out shines the reward of the destination.