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Humble Hearts

They arrived at the place they would call “home” and immediately began familiarizing the oldest one with her new surroundings. 

 The disappointment she saw when she looked at them, was merely a reflection of her disappointment over her inability to make things better. She needed them to believe in her. With all that she had lost, losing the faith her children had in her was not an option. The enormity of her situation engulfed her. In a word, she was overwhelmed. She felt as if she were drowning. Each day had been harder than the one before. Today had been no different and the only thing she knew without a doubt, was that tomorrow would be harder yet and still. They arrived at the place they would call “home” and immediately began familiarizing the oldest one with her new surroundings. Stumbling through a half-hearted explanation about leaving, she heard her oldest daughter’s response, ” It’s okay Mom,” she said quietly, “We know you are doing the best that you can.” She needed the comfort and understanding that her daughter’s statement brought with it. She knew that the way in which she dealt with this situation would, for them, become the foundation facing unfortunate circumstances. ” That’s right, we do” she said with a smile, ” so let me get out here and make it happen.” She needed them to believe in her, and with all that she had lost, loosing the faith her children had in her was not an option. She didn’t know how they had survived being in the tiny room; but somehow, they had. The oldest one learned to find her way to the bathroom, and although she didn’t always make it there in time, felt proud of her new skill. Her increasing hostility toward those who helped provide care, made it apparent that the situation was taking it’s toll on the oldest one. On one occasion, she had refused to bathe. Sitting stoically in her wheelchair, she announced that she was not going to take a bath. The smell of urine ( to which they had all become accustomed) was now overpowered by the remnants of bowel incontinence. After listening to the exchange between the oldest one and her oldest daughter, she stepped in and took over the conversation. Patient at first, she could feel herself becoming frustrated and paused briefly. For both of them to be upset would serve no purpose. She breathed deeply and (after exhaling slowly) said ” I understand that taking a bath is frustrating for you, but this situation is hard on us all. We have to work together to make the best of what we have. When a little baby has an accident of this nature, we change, bathe, and dress them. We do this because we don’t want that baby to get a terrible diaper rash. When I was a small child, you did this for me. Please let us do this for you.” Tears began streaming down the oldest one’s face. She looked out into a world that she could no longer see, placed her head in her hands and cried even harder. “Life is cruel” she thought to herself. “It appears kindest to individuals that deserve it the least.” The oldest one had been reduced to a mere fragment of the person she used to be. This person, the one that had spent her life championing the causes of downtrodden, had now become the underdog for whom she used to fight. She could feel herself becoming angry; not at the oldest one, but rather at how unfair it all seemed. “In all of this”, she wondered “where was God?” Feeling as helpless as the old woman in the wheelchair, she settled herself by thinking of things to be thankful for. Turning her attention away from herself and back towards the present moment, she looked again at the oldest one. The only thing more pitiful than the way she looked was the statement she made. ” I used to bathe you. I used to bathe your children. Now, I can’t even bathe myself.” Losing her sight had been humbling. No longer having control over her bladder and bowels, and having to depend on others to bathe her, had been humiliating. From behind them, in a voice that was barely audible they heard ” C’mon Nana, it’s ok.” No further words were spoken. The day had finally come to sign the lease on a new place to call home. She had been determined to make this day fun for them. Several months prior she had purchased passes to Belmont Park. She reasoned that since she had to sign the papers in San Diego – they would make a day of it. Understandably, the oldest one did not want to go. They worked together to feed, bathe, and dress her. Leaving later had allowed them to make the oldest one comfortable. They made sure that she had plenty of snacks within her reach. They made sure that she had on a clean fresh diaper. The oldest was resting comfortably and listening to the television when they left. This would give them all a much needed break. As they neared the real estate office, the conversation shifted from moving day to what rides they would go on first. She enjoyed this time with them. She liked them as individuals; she liked them together even more. They balanced each other. In her heart, she felt pure joy as she laughed and informed them that she was going to ride the roller coaster too. The reminsced about the time they had baited her into riding the “Ghost Rider” at Knott’s Berry Farm. Her now, 12 yrs old daughter had been 4yrs old then. After standing in line for what seemed like an eternity, she had elected to ride with her youngest daughter. It was the longest few minutes of her entire life. Terrified that her young daughter was going to slip out of the seat, she clung to her for dear life. The ride sent her this way, that way, turned her upside down, and left her shaking so badly that she to sit and compose herself before getting out. It wasn’t until the park attendant came over and asked her if she were ok, that she realized she was sitting perfectly still but shaking horribly. She had gone immediately to the first aid station, taken pain reliever for the headache she now had, and vowed on that day that she would never again ride the rails of any roller coaster. Her children went on to recount the slide at the water park a few years ago. As she climbed the tower of Babyl she remembered thinking, “how bad could it be? It’s just a slide and water right?” Her questions were unequivocally answered as she shot through the ” tunnel of hell” with such force that it felt like she were spinning all different directions at once. The ride had ended with her being catapulted through the air and into the wading pool shoulder and face first. She ignored the laughter, and again, on that day decided that rides of any sort were not for her. This day, however, was different. She wanted to have fun with them. She wanted to share this small experience with them. She was tired of sitting on the sidelines of life. Their laughter, their joy, the anticipation of the riding the roller coaster together, was better than any gift she could have received and better than any Christmas she had ever experienced! “Closed.” They read the sign in disbelief. No lights, no laughter, just the silence of sadness. “Are you serious God?” she thought to herself. “Really?” They tried not to show their disappointment. She tried not to show hers. In stillness of the dark night, however, the littlest one began to cry. She didn’t know if they felt sorry for themselves, or sorry for the littlest one, but she knew that she had to do something. They spent the evening in Old Town. The haunted house, though now closed provided a pleasant distraction. They amused themselves taking pictures and pretending to see ghosts and shadows peering back at them through the lace curtains. The walked peered in the windows of restaurants, splurged and purchased authentic handmade fresh tortillas, and told tales of what they would do if ever they faced the ghosts of the Whaley House. More and more, life was teaching her (and them) to let go expectation and embrace what is. They had enjoyed spending this time together and that is what had mattered most. These moments, though far and few in between, made her struggles worthwhile. These were the times that she was able to see them for all their strengths. With all that had gone wrong recently, times like those allowed her to appreciate and experience all that was right. They enjoyed themselves. More and more, life was giving her opportunities like this. Teaching her to let go of expectation in lieu of embracing what is had enabled them to reconnect as a family and create a good time out of the disappointment they had faced. For this, she was truly grateful, and from the expressions on their faces, they were too. The drive home was uneventful. She listened to lyrics of one of her favorite gospel songs and let her mind wander.As they approached the exit for the motel room, she motioned for her oldest daughter to answer the phone. She listened calmly as her daughter reiterated the conversation in which she was involved. “Mom, Nana is sitting naked on the bed and the curtains are open. They want to know if we are coming back to close them.” She was speechless. She heard herself asking questions but was too shocked to wait for the response. They returned to their room. Through the window, they saw the oldest one sitting contentedly on the bed. Clad only in a t-shirt, she was oblivious to the world outside. It was apparent by her conversation, that she believed herself to be back in the old house. The oldest one stated emphatically that she had asked someone who called the room to “go upstairs and get her daughter.” She had gotten up to go to the bathroom, and upon returning to her bed, had become more confused. The oldest one convinced herself that she was in the wrong room. Even more unsettling was the fact that she believed herself to be back in their old house. The oldest one stated emphatically that she had asked the person who called to “go upstairs and get her daughter” but they “acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about.” It was disconcerting to her, but even more so to them. Time was no longer on their side, and this episode was like a glimpse into a future that would all soon face. ©


2 thoughts on “Humble Hearts

  1. i felt that the old one or the “oldest one” needs to get out.. she really does..n i mean she isnt contributing with that wheelchair and she isnt paying rent.. who does that ? you ask me and she need s to do more than contribute wrinkles and dust (from farts).. I kicked my mother out , and my father (who had cancer) out of my home and now they are on Las Angeles blvd sshuffling along.. one is in a walker and the other is in a wheelchair.. how they worked that out ?. i really dont know and its not like I care.. touching story though.. it brought tears to my eyes for the pain i feel for you.. to not know the joys of changing the locks and having a policeman stand guard outside of your home just in case those old birds decide to return.. you havent lived until youve sipped a mojito lounging beside the pool with a couple of gogo boys in hillcrest… lovin life!…
    … Hugh Jass

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