Whether you are a young baby boomer or one of the oldest of our generation, there is something that strikes everyone the same way: our parents are slowly dying off. Wendy Reichental is only 49, but already has gone through it, and still sometimes finds it difficult to cope. We have published her thoughts on this in the past, and now give you the latest which she calls, Sometimes Things Aren’t As They Seem.
I was sitting outside the other day, listening to the birds, enjoying my cup of coffee, when my mind wandered off to the time when my mom was recuperating from her hip fracture and staying with my husband and me. That was almost 5 years ago, but I remember those harrowing days with precision detail. I could not stand seeing my mother in pain or discomfort; I wanted to make it all go away.
Those were stressful days for my mom, who had to learn to use a cane and come to terms with her newfound limitations. I had to cope with feeling anxious all the time, and worrying that she could take another spill and break the hip again. Those first few weeks after she got discharged into my care from the rehabilitation hospital, we all seemed to be agitated and adjusting.
At times Mom refused to use her cane; I was there to reinforce using the cane and act as physiotherapist… but being strict with my own mother did not come easy for me. I can still remember that distinct look she would give me, when I nagged her to hold onto that masculine-looking metal cane the hospital sent her home with and not onto my arm. I can still hear the ping ping sound it made against our wooden floor.
One morning I awoke to the sound of the cane’s ping, ping, but it seemed to be coming from my mom’s bedroom… .which given that it was all carpeted, was indeed strange. But I definitely could hear banging around in there. I feared the worst, and thought she had fallen off the bed and was using her cane to cry for help!
I wasn’t thinking clearly, so I bolted out of my bedroom, and attempted to calmly knock on her door. I held my breath and slowly opened it and found my mom looking serene, quietly reading her magazines. Sunlight had filled the room with warmth and a much needed sense of optimism.
While Mom looked relaxed, I needed to sit down. I asked her about the banging noise and in utter amusement she pointed to the tree outside her window and told me there is a deranged cardinal that insists on visiting her and with a determined force uses its beak to peck on her window. And sure enough, as I sat there feeling quite unhinged, I witnessed the cardinal’s intriguing performance. We both looked at each other and grinned, but mine was with an extra exhale of utter relief.
I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about such things lately, and realizing that many situations are not what they seem. Take me, for example. On the outside apparently I appear to be holding it together, going to work, and resuming my routines. But on the inside, there’s a different documentary going on. Since my mom passed away almost a year ago, I am not the same person. And although I am a full-grown middle-aged adult, I have never felt more infantile. I miss my mom, and my dad, terribly! I find myself feeling unbelievably lost and grief stricken.
But life resumes, and we carry on, like I did this past weekend, with an ordinary trip to the grocery store. I was pushing my cart along, when a familiar ping ping grabbed my attention and tugged at my heartstrings. I followed the sound, and there in the aisle was a severely hunched-over elderly woman, walking with a metal cane. I purposely positioned my cart so I would come face to face with her, and for a brief moment as she was about to pass me, she lifted her head and our eyes met.
I’m sure I had a startled and dismayed expression. She might have surmised that I was offended and scared by her appearance. But she would have been sorely wrong. All I was thinking, was how much I miss my mom, and pine for her pinging.