Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shifting Currents of life.

My day has been a mix of swirling emotions.  It is mid-afternoon as I sit in my chair wrapped in a shawl sipping a cup of red rooibus tea.  Outside my window, the beauty of my neighbor's red maple tree continues to cheer my heart as the clouds roll over the mountains at the end of my valley.  A thick layer of snow covers Pikes Peak while we in the valley below experience intermittent rain.

Since we've moved to Colorado Springs, I've always loved the rhythm of our Sundays:  leisurely afternoons filled with walks and reading were preceded by church attendance and breakfast or brunch out.  All of this has been disrupted by Jim's new work schedule.  Sometimes, he has to work on Sundays now.  Today, he went to work at 2:00.  I hated to send him out in the cold rain.  Soon after his departure, he sent me a text, "Glad I'm here.  Busy store. Lots of energy. (thumbs up sign, smilely face sign, big eyes sign)."  I love his cheery text.  I'm thankful he loves his job that has given him so many benefits.  His blood pressure is lower since he started working.  He has more bounce in his step.  He has new friends and new experiences.  Sometimes, we just do better working a bit after retirement.  Still, I miss, our quiet rhythm we had on Sundays, but we have other days and moments to share on other days.  

I came home from Pennsylvania on Wednesday of this past week.  I'd been there for two weeks. As I left Pennsylvania, I thought about how I had come to also love the rhythm of the days that I spent with my son.  I adapted to his living space and town after a few days of getting used to a new place.  Acclimating to changes in the time zone from Mountain Time to Eastern Time took a few days.  Mostly, I noticed it at meal time.  

Scranton had been a mysterious place to me before I finally went out to Pennsylvania to see my son.  He had described it, but I needed to experience its uniqueness myself to begin to appreciate its charms.  I'd always wanted to visit Pennsylvania ever since I learned about the meaning of the word Pennsylvania in Latin class.  I asked my son and grandson if they knew where the word Pennsylvania came from.  They did not.  So I told them that sylvania meant woodland.  I told them it meant Penn's woodland.  

The hills of Pennsylvania are so different from the mountains of Colorado.  I found them beautiful, but while returning home from the airport in Denver, I marveled anew at the blue skies of home that are so easily seen above the wide expanse of prairie lands that spread to the mountains in the distance.  I am Colorado girl.  I love the vistas of the West.  I don't think I could live without seeing the wide expanses of my home state.  

While in Pennsylvania, I did so enjoy looking at the beautiful old homes near Marywood University where my son is teaching.  I also enjoyed driving through the ethnic neighborhoods and seeing the diverse population that makes up the city of Scranton.  Much of the city is old, but it is interesting.  Again, the cities in the West are new by comparison to those in the East.  

I didn't venture out of my comfort zone much.  I would take Jon to work on some days and then take care of household duties.  I tried to cook him healthy vegetarian meals as much as possible.  I actually lost weight while I was there because I was living the vegetarian lifestyle he has followed for so many years.  I must admit I departed from this dietary routine when I was by myself.

One day, I was invited to lunch by Jon's good friend.  She took me to a great place called Canteen 900 in Wilkes Barre.  We met her mother for lunch and had a great visit.  I ate a great big juicy hamburger for lunch that day.  Jon's friend is a vegetarian.  She ate a yummy looking menu item that fit her diet plan.  We had a fun time at lunch.

It was great to have some time out with new friends and to get to know Jon's friend's mom.  They are both terrific women.

After lunch, I was treated to a massage at FK's house.  Yep, she is a massage therapist, and she promised me a massage.  Heaven only knows how much I needed one. F's house was fabulous.  I loved it.  She bought it several years ago and has painstakingly painted it, decorated it, furnished it, and make it her very special place of comfort.  I could have moved in.  I loved it!

Another day, I was by myself while Jon spent the day with his friend.  I remembered the shops that FK had pointed out to me. Guess where I spent that day?  Guess what I had to eat?  Steak.  I went to a steakhouse and ordered me a wonderful steak dinner.

I also spent a lot of time at the laundromat, a place I hadn't been to since the birth of my firstborn.  Jon and I found a very clean and pleasant place to do laundry.  I tried to keep towels and bedding and work clothes laundered while I was there so that Jon would not have to worry about that.

I also found a grocery store I liked that Jon had never visited.  I liked its convenience, friendliness, and the quality of its produce.  I loved that it was fewer than five minutes from the house.  I think I went there everyday after I found it.  I'd always think of something we were out of.

While in Scranton, I was reminded daily of a tragedy that had happened just before I arrived in Pennsylvania.   Bryon Dickson, a Pennsylvania State Police officer,  had been killed by a survivalist targeting police officers.  Officer Dickson's home was along the route I followed when I took Jon to school, or when I returned to pick him up from school.  A police car occupied by an officer was always parked in front of the house when I drove by.  At times, I would see one of the children of the fallen officer talking to the officer in the car.  Another time, I saw his widow.  The sight of this surveillance duty was always sobering and caused me to pray for the pain this family must be suffering.


Being alone on this rainy Sunday afternoon has given me time to reflect on how the rhythms of our lives are so easily disrupted.  Three weeks ago today, I got the call that Jon had been injured. Thankfully, I had the health and resources to go to his side for a few weeks.  During our time together, it was easy for me to shift back into the role of mom.  In my heart and mind, I've never stepped out of that role.  As the mother of adult children, I try not to interfere or help too much in their adult lives.  Notice the use of the words TRY  NOT TO INTERFERE.  Having said that, I hope they know I am here always, only a phone call away.  It is a fine line parents to adult children are asked to walk.  We are here to extend help and advice when it is asked for.  We are here to garner all that we have at our disposal to aid in the time of crisis.  We also must let them live their own lives and find their way during times of change and turbulence.

In the past four years, our family has been tossed about by more winds of change than any of us thought possible.  Our lives have been upended and tossed about as it seemed we were walking "against the wind." I couldn't help but relate to this Mama Duck in this video I saw on YouTube. I love how the ducklings came to each others' sides as one or another was tossed about.  I also liked how the Mama's main priority seemed to be getting herself back on her feet.  She then proceeded to lead the ducklings down the path of life with just a quick glance back to make sure they all were still there under her care and watchful guidance.

While I was in Pennsylvania, I spoke with my oldest daughter one day.  She was home from work that day suffering badly from asthma.  I could tell her breathing was labored.  She has suffered from such terrible asthma since childhood.  That day, she was across the country from me.  I know she's fought this disease by herself for years.  I know she knows how to care for herself while she is sick with it better than I would know how to do. Still, I worry about her.  As we hung up, I said, "Please take care of yourself.  Go get your medicine.  I don't like you being there by yourself.  I worry about you."  Her response was, "Yes, I know you do, Mom.  That's your job."  


Today during our church service, we sang one of my favorite hymns, Rock of Ages.  How grateful I am that I have the anchor of my hope in a Rock that higher than I to hold me during these times when the currents of life rush around me.  In the midst of change, and of turmoil, and of injuries, and illness, and loss, I have always found that I am held by my God and by those who love me and my children.

Thank you dear friends  for your words of concern and comfort during this time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unplanned Time with My Son

Where to start?  One day, I was trying to adjust to idea I was in the waning days of summer with autumn fast approaching, and the next day, I was on a plane flying to Pennsylvania to be at son's side after he had been involved in an accident that nearly took his life.  On Sunday afternoon, September 21, a message was left on my phone from a nurse at a hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania, telling me that my son had been in accident. "He's ok," she said, but I needed to call because he wished to speak with me.  My heart stopped when I heard the message.  Then, for another twenty agonizing minutes I could not reach the nurse because she was with my son who was having a MRI done.  No one could tell me what had happened because of HIPAA rules.  

Finally, I was able to connect with the nurse and more importantly with my son.  He had suffered a terrible trauma to his brachial plexus on his right side when he was cut by glass.  He is fortunate to be alive.  He received seven units of blood.  Surgery was performed to save his life.  In the process, somewhere along the way, damage was done to his nerves on the right arm in the brachial plexus area.  I think we all were in shock those first few days.  Certainly Jon was.  Certainly, I was.  

Two days later, On September 23, I flew from Colorado to Pennsylvania on a one way ticket.  I wanted to leave the date of my departure open.  By the time I got here, he'd been discharged from the hospital right from ICU.  I guess at that point I became his trauma nurse.  

For three days, I tried to navigate the unknowable medical field waters in search of aftercare treatment. My son was and is paralyzed from the shoulder down on the right side of his body.  He had an incision that is about seven inches long and contains over twenty stitches and staples.  Not being from this area, and with him being new to the area, I had no idea where to start in finding the help I knew he would need to heal.  For three days, I tried to get him into doctors and therapy.  Finally, this week it all began to come together.  We were able to connect with an occupational therapist whom I think will really be a source of great help and encouragement for him on this journey.  We also found a straight shooter for a primary care doctor whom I think will put together a plan to get him into the specialists he may need in his recovery.  We are optimistic that he will recover the use of his arm.  

Jonathan amazes me with his determination.  I'm not surprised.  He is one amazing kid.  He has had many adventures in his life.  Perhaps, he has lived life a bit too much on the edge.  He's always been daring and ready to push the envelope.  

He returned to work on the following Monday, September 29. He is teaching a full load of classes at the university.  I am here until next week trying to support him in any way I can.  Mostly, I'm just being mom and trying to keep body and soul together while he adapts to his new normal.  I am grateful to have this time with him.  These are treasured moments.  I get to be a participant in my son's life.  I get to observe his determination and hard work as he works so diligently on his classes.  I am able to be here with him in the hard parts of this journey when we can share what is in our hearts.  

On last Saturday, the sun was shining and we went to a nearby park for a walk.  I felt so blessed to walk in these Pennsylvania woods with my son and his son.  

Gratitude: walking in the woods on a sunny early fall day with my son and grandson.  

I gather up these memories and store them in my heart.  I may be here because of an unexpected and unwanted event, but I am here with my boys and for that I am grateful.  I also am most grateful that my son is here standing upright and able to show me this place so soon after his accident.  Youth and good health is on his side.  

From the shadows into the light, we follow the path we find ourselves on.  

Sometimes the paths of life are not as well laid out as the one we see in this photo.  In those cases, I always think of a path that is new to me.  Parts of it are rocky and obscure.  Other parts have waters rushing across.  I'm not sure how the path will end.  I sometimes feel very lost. That is when I think of this American Indian story:
 "You are deep in the woods, and you think you are lost; stop, look at the trees, the rocks, rivers-they are not lost.  They are here.  You are not lost, you are here."

Last night, Jon's son Atticus came to spend the night.  I was quite touched to see old Oso in Atticus' suitcase.  I gave this bear, as is my tradition, to Atticus on his first Christmas.  I must say no first Christmas bear of any other grandchild has seen the adventures this bear has seen.  He lived in Colorado to begin his life.  He then moved from there to Boston.  This dear bear, Oso, already rather travel worn, made his way to Bangladesh.  After a year and a half there, Oso, always at the side of Atticus, flew over the North Pole and home to the United States.  After living in Boston, he made his way to Pennsylvania.  I was glad to see this old friend from my grandson's earliest days.

Life seems complete when I have my kids by my side.  It is good being here cooking meals, driving my son to school on some days, he drives on others.  I try to keep the house running as he keeps up with his school work.  He tires easily and comes home exhausted and ready to have a big rest before the evening activities, but each day he seems stronger.

I will fly home next week.  I hate to leave.  My former husband and father of my children will come to spend some time with Jon the day before I leave.  He will be here for the next leg on this journey. 

It is so hard when your baby chicks grow up and leave home.  They seem to go to such far away places.  The miles separate us, but in this day of modern technology, we are only a text or a phone call away.  For that, I am also grateful.  

In the end, as a mom I've learned I must ultimately leave my children in hands that are much greater than mine.  They are all prayed over, and prayed over some more.  Whether they believe in my prayers or not, that does not matter.  I pray for them.  Each of them.  Everyday.  And, I thank God that I was blessed with each dear life.  Being a mom is hard, even when they are all grown up, but being a mom, I also know the rich blessings that I have in being a part of the journey that each child is on.  Their stories are intertwined with mine.  They are part of the story of my life.  We walk down this path together.