For Everyone Who Worries About The Kids In Their Lives Who Worry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Wisdom of Our Elders

Visiting my grandmother in the nursing home always stirs up a mix of feelings for me. I have begun to get used to the fact that she doesn't remember who I am most of the time, and that she definitely has no idea who my kids are. I have also come to accept that with her physical ailments and her dementia, this is the best place for her to be. I accept it even if it makes me sad to see her there. It is so very hard to see someone who was once so vibrant and active - a mother of 7 children and 2 foster children! - now wear an ankle monitor, sit in a wheelchair, and need 24 hour care. We used to spend time together talking, shopping, traveling, going to the beach. She was always energetic and in love with life. She had a tremendous love for animals and people and she could talk to anyone - from the cashier at the local supermarket to the friends I would bring to her house on the Cape. Now much of what she says is jumbled with criss-crossed memories of the many different events and times of her life. But even though her mind and her body are failing her in so many ways, I am still touched by her spirit every time I go and see her.

My grandma has always been someone I looked up to as being positive and full of love and faith. Being around her, I still get that feeling. The feeling that life is beautiful and is meant to be enjoyed. When I arrived at the nursing home today, she was sitting outside in her wheelchair beside my father. She had her eyes closed, her head up, and was soaking in the sun. A big smile came over her face as she took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh, warm air. Then she just sighed a happy "mmmmm" and clasped her hands in prayer. Sitting in her wheelchair in the late morning sun, she looked like the happiest person in the world. And at that moment, she just may have been.

Later in our visit, my kids discovered a butterfly and proceeded to go about catching it. This little activity caused quite a bit of noise as they knocked into benches and bushes outside and kept setting off the automatic doors to open and close. Not wanting them to disturb anyone (or break anything or anyone!), I asked them to settle down and come talk to their great-grandma. But my grandma wouldn't have it. "Let them get that butterfly," she said. "That is what kids do." Then she again closed her eyes, and got a big smile on her face and said, "And please let them keep laughing." Even though she could not remember who these children were in relation to her, they were still children. And they were children who were bringing her such joy just by being kids. Being in the moment. Laughing, enjoying the day, and not having a care in the world.

Happiness in the present moment. The greatest gift there is because the present moment is all we really have anyway. And what a treasure to be happy in it! Today, my grandmother reminded me of this. She may not have her memories of the past and no sense of the future, but she still has the present moment. And she still can enjoy that. Maybe more so than the rest of us, because it is not cluttered with regrets of the past and worries about the future.

The next time I find myself in the past or future of my hurried mind, I am going to try and remember my grandmother's smile from today as she felt the sun and listened to the kids' laughter. And I am going to use that image to remember to appreciate the moment. The beauty around me. The love of my kids. My health. My family and friends. The many blessings in my life. And then I am going to take in my own deep breath, soak it all in, and thankfully clasp my hands in prayer.

Thank you grandma. I love you.

May your heart be at ease,
Angela सन्तोष

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Moving Days

Change is hard. It is hard for adults and it is hard for children. But change can also be a good thing. It can sometimes be very hard to see the good in it when you are going through it. But after you experience enough of it in your life, you start to learn that it is inevitable and that it can often lead to something even better.

Moving is a huge change. A huge change and a huge stress for a family. And not only for the family that is moving, but for the families that are left behind. Since my family is the one experiencing the loss of two close family friends moving right now, that is the one I am focused on.

Luckily we treasure the friends that are moving right now and when we say "good-bye" it is not really a final one. We will still see them. We will still be close friends. It is just the dynamics of our friendship is changing. Meeting at the coffee shop for a cafe mocha can't just be spontaneous anymore, it will need to be more planned. Having their kids over to play for the afternoon can't just be a drive by request, but now needs to be scheduled a little bit ahead. Popping over for a glass of wine may now need to be placed on the calendar ahead of time. Working or volunteering together may not be quite as easy. Ugh. Just writing this and thinking of it this way brings me down. And it is surely not the way I want to present it to my kids. Is there a more positive way to look at this for my myself and my family?

OK. Let's turn this thinking around. We have another place to visit now when we get tired of doing the same old thing around here. And now when we visit, it is not for just an hour here or there between activities, but a good period of time where it is just us and them. No interruptions, just time to chat and play. Kids...can you say, sleepovers!!!! How fun is that. Here is another word for you...surprises! I absolutely love getting in the car, destination unknown for the kids, and surprising them with a day spent with good friends. Mini, affordable "vacations" in a new town! New things to do! Let's explore their town for the day. Their ice cream stands, playgrounds, swimming, parks, zoos, fairs. Different things to talk about! Who doesn't love some good gossip about the new neighbors or what is going on in someone else's schools??? And then of course, there is email, facebook, IM, skype, media messaging, texting, cell phones. We could be more in touch now living further away than we were living in the same town!

Ahhhh...that sounds better to me. More comforting, exciting, and manageable. And more of the way I want my kids to see it. Truth be told, I am happy for my friends. There moves are going to make their lives easier. Their families closer. Their time freer. I love them enough to know that this is what is right for them right now. I would rather see them content and at peace further away, than stressed and maxed out close by.

Selfishly though, I am still sad. My kids will be sad to lose the everyday closeness of their neighborhood friends, their hometown friends. But I am hoping to show them what friendship truly is with these moves. It is easy to be friends with someone you see everyday. Someone who is so tangled up in your immediate world. But the rewards for putting the work into keeping friendships with those who are further away are great. Lifelong friends are amazing friends no matter how close or far away from you they are. They are worth the effort. And in the case of true friends, love makes the effort not really that hard at all.

McCuskers and Panettas we will miss you terribly. May your moves be the beginning of new and wonderful journeys. May you make many new friends and feel comfort and joy in your new homes. May your kids love their new homes, schools, friendships and activities. And may you have no time to think about what you have left behind, because we will remain right beside you every step of the way! We love you and look forward to your "hello" parties in your new homes.

May your heart be at ease,
Angela सन्तोष