This past week I spent several hours with my mother (who turns 98 in 2 weeks) in less than optimal circumstances: waiting, interminably, in a doctor’s office.
Even in a pleasant location, our visits can be trying. Mom sees only from the periphery of her eyes; straight on, everything is a black blur. And lately she hears nothing at all. Conversation quickly degenerates into futile shouting on my part, sulking and withdrawal on hers.
I often feel that we’re both just waiting for her to die.
I end up just holding her hand until she takes a nap, or cutting the visit short and waving in her face so she’ll know I’m leaving. She used to follow me to the door of her assisted living home, as if I’d take her away with me. These days it’s hard for her to get out of the chair without falling. Hence, the visit to the doctor.
But as we sat in the virtually empty waiting room for three hours, there was no escaping. I watched various staff members leave for lunch, and asked the desk if I could take her to get something to eat and come right back. “Oh, no,” I was told. “The doctor will be right with her.”
Mom, in her silent world, went through many moods, over and over. She slumped despondently in a chair. Then she’d get a determined look on her face and would climb upright using her cane. The first time she headed for the door, she happened to push the side that was locked. She gave a huge sigh and said, “So I’m trapped in here.”
She walked to various windows and looked out, touching the panes as if they would dissolve. She came back to different chairs to sit. Once she even turned the chair around to face the window.
I do Qigong when I have to wait for any length of time. It calms me down and helps me draw on reserves of patience. It also embarrasses my mother. Usually she makes some sarcastic remark. This time she was so lost and dispirited, she just ignored me.
I think that, more than anything, cracked my heart open and flooded it with compassion — where I had felt only resentment and anger and “duty” for so long. I began to feel what it must be like to be her: still somewhat cognitive, but unable to communicate. Still able to get around, but with no idea where she is or where she’s going. Still very, very angry, but unwilling to let go.
It was a very different feeling, looking at her as a lovable being rather than a burden.
I can’t say this feeling will last, but now I know how to reach down into myself and find it again.
One bit of good news: the doctor — when we finally saw him — noticed that her ears are impacted with wax. So we have an appointment with an ear doctor to clean them out. (I hope we don’t have to wait too long!) Maybe she’ll get some hearing back and can come back to the world.
For this moment I will shed my anger …
Christin Whittington is a practitioner of energy medicine – helping people restore balance in their bodies, their health and their lives using a combination of Reiki, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Qi Gong and herbal medicine.