October 15, 2011 — “Thanks for the kisses for us,” I emailed my friend who had sent cyberkisses to our Linkedin women writers caregivers group members. “We always need them; at least I do,” I told her. Somewhere along the line very early in my adult life, I effected my moving to Southern California where I was fortunate to meet guides who led me to a room with a big window where I could get a clear picture of my erroneous views. I flung those views into a flaming hearth, and assumed responsibility for my thoughts and actions. But the hearth must be big and ever tended. These phenomena arrive on my doorstep without ringing the bell, often are unwieldy and I struggle with them daily.
I don’t mean to sound overstuffed here; I am humbly offering a view of my cauldron of experiences as I understand them. That understanding could become tomorrow morning’s ashes swept out of the hearth to be replaced with fresh kindling. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in porridge.
I am receptive to what comes, think it’s the right way to go, later learn it was the wrong way – or was it? It led me to where I am today. Could I have chosen a smoother path? Maybe. Still, 30 years since reading it, my favorite book on this subject is a little book by Richard Bach, called Illusions. He presents it as “the messiah’s handbook,” and for me it is, no matter how reluctantly I accept the gift it places into my hands.
This is what steams from the brew of thoughts sparking in my awakening head early this morning as I roll out of bed and stumble straight to my computer. My hands are cold and my fingers can barely move to type to keep up with my unedited thoughts that pour out onto this page.
I lean back in my chair. I ruminate.
I take a break from my writing, exit my blog and amble out across the meadow to the broad brook at the edge of the woods. I pick up a long stick and poke at the ground as I wander. The shimmering water rippling over the stones recalls Franz Schubert’s lied “Auf dem Wasser zu singen” (D. 774, transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt; currently no. 22 on my “The Dream” playlist, here performed by Evgeny Kissin).
I find a boulder and sit down to rest. I think of the journeyman who upon his wanderings comes to a brook which he follows to a mill. There he encounters the miller’s beautiful daughter – “Der Müller und der Bach.” I look across the brook to the woods. Which is the better side? To contemplate alone in the deep woods or to go out into the bustle of humanity and exchange information and ideas? Which is the better way to achieve enlightenment and ultimately liberation?
Someone said to me of her man friend whom she has met only a few years ago: “I feel like we were stuck together in a past life, and then someone in this life peeled us apart and sent us out into the world separately. Only now have we come together again, yet we remain separate.”
I seem to have reached the end of my path. I don’t know where to turn next. My question becomes Faustian. Do I continue putting one foot in front of the other along the bank of this brook, do I ford the stream, or do I wander into the water, deep into the center until it rises up over my head? How do I bring this together?
The sun warms me here by the brook. I haven’t seen The Blue Deer. I wonder where she is?
My friend who emailed us the cyberkisses sent me a copy of the September 3, 2012, People magazine story about singer Amy Grant’s caregiving for her dad who has dementia. Her mom suffered from dementia and passed away last year. Ms. Grant said that in the beginning she felt angry and overwhelmed because it wasn’t like it used to be. No, it isn’t.
For me, so much of her story rings true, especially the parts where early on her dad asks, “How do I do this?” Or his smiling when she points out nipping the dead buds off the daffodils to encourage fresh blooms and he smiles uncomprehending and says, “I guess.” Emma used to do that. And the look in his eyes: it’s the same as Emma’s. You can see in the eyes an intelligent person (he was a prominent radiation oncologist in Nashville) and the vacuity or opacity at the same time. It is heartrending and frightening, because you know you may be next. As Amy Grant says, she sees him as the person he was; I see Emma as she was – that the one with dementia is not really she. She simply got sick. I find it intriguing that Amy Grant’s mom’s and dad’s dementia showed up in brain scans. Emma’s did not. Odd that there was no history of dementia in Amy Grant’s family – none in ours, either – yet both her parents got dementia so young, in their 70s. I wonder what caused that? Emma was much older, 90.
It’s not only hard to let go of your loved one; it’s hard to let go of the life that used to be or could be.
I glance at last summer’s irises here in the meadow. The long leaves flow lushly and gracefully from the rhizomes, their tips now turning yellow, like elderly hands. Dead buds remain. Maybe I need to stay where I am and pick off the dead buds to encourage fresh blooms.