Winging it

Posted on February 25, 2010
Filed under Columns & essays | 17 Comments | Email This Post

The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.”  ~Max Lerner

When the walls around my little world seem to be caving in, my first impulse is to isolate myself while I put the bricks back in place. Luckily, I have a great support system to help bolster those walls and to remind me that I’m really not in this thing alone.

Earlier this week, my 80-year-old mother was in the hospital with a broken rib and multiple compression fractures in her spine. Meanwhile, my husband’s own mother has been leaning heavily on him to avert a family crisis of a different kind. There’s been so much going on in our realm of elder care, in fact, that the two of us are operating in what we call “divide and conquer mode.” Yet through it all, Doug always makes time to sit down and listen to my daily litany of “What’s wrong with Mom now.” He’s my main port in the storm.

While my mother wants to remain independent in her own condo, her health issues (including early stage dementia) now require a team of home-care professionals to make that possible. Thank goodness, by the time my mother was discharged from the hospital, her internist had ordered a nurse, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist to work with her at home several times a week. When the discharge nurse informed me of this development, I fought tears of relief. At first, Mom objected to the idea of having strangers in the house to assist her. But when I explained that I’ll need help in order to help her, she reluctantly backed down.

Of course, this is only a temporary solution. As a retired RN reminded me, determining how to care for our elderly — with love and dignity — is one of the toughest challenges for my generation. Whether you’re an only child like me, or have five handy siblings willing to roll up their sleeves, you need a plan to care for your aging parents. Another friend is wrestling with similar issues for her widowed mom — and she still has teenagers at home. Her brothers live out of state, so, as she put it, she’s been functioning almost as if she were an only child.

Meanwhile, dear ones have warmed my heart and soul with supportive notes and cards and e-mails.  Shirley sent three chocolate bars with a sweet note that read, “These will help.” (And yes, they did.) My aunt volunteered to help with Mom’s meals and grocery shopping. And out of the blue, my neighbor Joanne invited me to a spiritual program at the nearby Manresa Jesuit retreat center yesterday. The program focused on the role of the Blessed Mother Mary, and circled around the theme of nurturing and “mothering” ourselves when life seems to ask too much of us. How perfect was that?

When I was preparing for my second hip replacement surgery back in 2002, my friend Jenny sent me a wonderful quote from Patrick Overton. My blog friend Marlynn, who didn’t know that I had already received the quote, sent it to me again last week. (Marlynn reminds me that there are no “coincidences.”) It worked like a charm the second time around, and I’d like to share it with you:

“When you come to the edge of all the light you have and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen to you: Either there will be something solid for you to stand on, or, you will be taught how to fly.”

Thanks so much, everyone, for winging it with me. – Cindy La Ferle

– Collage in photo is from “Nature,” an altered book, by Cindy La Ferle –

Comments

17 Responses to “Winging it”

  1. Sharon on February 25th, 2010 11:15 am

    The perfect quote for this time in our lives. It sounds like the internist provided something solid for you to stand on. Thank you for sharing your journey, Cindy. You are not alone. You have support all around you, near and far. We are all winging it and glad to know we have companions to share the trip.

  2. giftsofthejourney on February 25th, 2010 1:27 pm

    I have been reading your posts for some time quietly watching from the background and I want to say how much I respect how well you are working to balance your life and needs with caring for your mother. Some of your posts have been very moving and I appreciate the sharing you do here.

  3. Joanne on February 25th, 2010 1:27 pm

    I’ve often had a similar thought when I hear of people coping with crisis, or really tough emotional situations. There must be something there for them, some strength, wings, hands, that only they can see, that they have the courage to take. And now, in the 21st century, aren’t those hands often virtual? Much peace to you at this time.

  4. Harriet on February 25th, 2010 4:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing that quote. I, too, am wrestling with the health issues of a member of my family. I’ve printed the quote so that I can read it as often as I feel the need.

  5. Cindy La Ferle on February 25th, 2010 5:36 pm

    I’m pleased that so many of you are also finding comfort in the Overton quote. I mentioned it (and the first time it was given to me) in my Daily Tribune newspaper column in 2004. That column was revised and reprinted as an essay, “Being Still,” in my book, Writing Home , on page 289.

    As Sharon (above) points out, we’re not alone. Many of us in midlife are going through these changes, and suddenly handling much bigger responsibilities for our parents. Some readers have e-mailed me privately today to share similar stories — or more difficult stories — and to offer words of support and empathy. I haven’t had a chance to answer these notes yet, but promise I will soon. Again, thanks so much for your kindness.

  6. Bridgette on February 25th, 2010 10:28 pm

    I love the quote, but sometimes when you you have your toes gripping the edge it doesn’t feel as though you will survive the fall.
    We have however, survived this situation with our own mothers. So hard, with no easy answers. Trust your insticts and the Lord.
    This too shall pass.

  7. deb on February 25th, 2010 11:07 pm

    I’ve loved that quote since I came upon it somewhere in the blog world .

    You inspire . And are so graceful and gracious.
    I am going to look into retreats in this area. I can just imagine how incredible that must have been.

    And your article in the Victoria magazine, btw, is superb.

    love to you

  8. Deb (Atlanta) on February 26th, 2010 12:31 am

    I’m sharing this with my cousin who is faced with the same challenges of an aging mother to care for. Hang in there, Cindy. You’re not alone on your winged journey. I’m right there along for the ride, awaiting my turn that I know will come.

  9. Mariellen on February 26th, 2010 9:22 am

    Both your quote and “this too shall pass” – a favourte of my sister who has suffered tragedies of her own – were very helpful. I wish you every strength and support in finding the balance you seek in dealing with your life.

  10. Marlynn on February 26th, 2010 10:10 am

    Just checking in to see how you are doing. Seems you and hubby are handling the stresses and I know both of you will persevere. Stay close to your friends, family, and angels. *wink* …. In reading all the comments for this post, it brings back memories when I was going through the same thing many years ago… I hope everyone knows you do walk through it to the other side with bumps and detours along the way. But you will manage and survive, might not feel like it now, but you will. Keep whispering those prayers. M

  11. Cindy La Ferle on February 26th, 2010 10:12 am

    Thank you, Deb (Talk at the Table) and Deb (Atlanta) and Bridgette. It’s kind of you, Deb, to call me “gracious,” but I have to admit that I battle feelings of anger, sometimes resentment, knowing that I’m losing my “real” mom to dementia. She goes back and forth between being her old self, then childlike and scared. Her doctors rely on me to act as her parent/advocate most of the time. (Which is why it helps me to hold that loving image of Mary close to heart.)

    Deb, I am not sure how far north you are in Canada, but I will be happy to send you the link to the Manresa Jesuit retreat house in Bloomfield Hills if you would like to learn more about their retreats.

    Bridgette, you’re right too, about trusting our instincts. However, it’s not likely that my mom’s situation will improve. The goal is to keep her as safe and comfortable as we can, with pain management, and let her live in her condo (with help) as long as we can until it’s time to move her to assisted living.

    Marlynn, you are an angel. Thanks again for sharing that quote!

  12. Leslie Wyman on February 26th, 2010 2:03 pm

    Thank you for putting the “greater” perspective on this, Cindy. You are such a masterful thinker and writer. I am awestruck.

  13. Angie Muresan on February 26th, 2010 3:11 pm

    Sending hugs and blessings your way, Cindy. I know this isn’t an easy time for you. I’ve been thinking of you the last few days, wondering how things are.
    By the way, lovely article in the Victoria. I’ve been showing it to my friends and my mom.

  14. Cheryl Wright on February 26th, 2010 3:44 pm

    Patrick Overton’s quote is so poignant – it sent tingles up and down my spine.

    Cindy your graceful flight is inspiring.

  15. Cafe Pasadena on February 28th, 2010 4:26 pm

    I know how it feels to care for a seriously ailing parent. It’s a chapter in our life stories. Unfortunately, as stressful as it is while providing the care to a loved one, we often do not feel the full weight of it until that care no longer needs to be given.

    Ditto de above comments.

  16. deb @ talk at the table on February 28th, 2010 8:33 pm

    Cindy, I googled the retreat you mentioned and is now on my wish list. I live just about 3.5 hours from Detroit.
    It is a feasible option at some point. At a not too far in the future point. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I hope your weekend was more restful than not.

  17. Joanna Jenkins on March 3rd, 2010 12:25 am

    Big sigh. My heart is with you Cindy.

    I’ve been down this road before and am happy to know you have a strong support system to lean on– cuz sometimes, you just have to. When it comes to caring for a parent or loved one, “It takes a village” has a whole new meaning.

    Sending virtual hugs and support.

    xo

    PS I printed the quote at the end and taped it on the cover of my laptop. I’ve been “on the edge” for a while and this really spoke to me. Thanks.

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