Something to Think About

It Takes Time

It takes time to stare out the window at the welcomed rain, the summer dust washing off, leaving the leaves glistening.

It takes time for my sister Susan to call all seven of us children — the task divided up with my brother David — to tell them that at breakfast that Friday morning mother had a stroke, was rushed to the hospital where she remains in critical care.

It takes time to not sew. Or sew, then un-stitch. Wonder if this was the right set of fabrics where not just four days ago you were certain of it. You were certain of everything: your plans for Thanksgiving, the trip to Utah for your father’s 97th birthday, the relationships you had with your brothers and sisters. Which now, after Mom’s stroke, all looks very uncertain.

It takes time to make contact with all your brothers and sisters, now that you realize that taking time is what you want to do. Some welcome the contact. Others seem to think you are nuts, that Mom will recover, that they were just fine with a little distance. It’s a common refrain in families, this push-pull, in-out, close-far, and we are no exception.

At the end of the time at my friend Joan’s funeral — well, after the funeral — after the family members left who kept you on edge, after the clean-up of the meal and the sweeping of the floor, we took a little time to say our good-byes. I looked at Joan’s daughter and husband, their five daughters and realized that I’d been given a gift by taking this time to serve them. I said as much to them, then added that while I would miss Joan terribly, she was in bits and pieces in all of them: her love of literature, travel, adventure, kindness, curiosity and love for those around her. A moment of final emotion and then having taken the time, we all left.

It takes time to not plan out a Christmas quilt, especially now, when time has to be taken for talking on the phone, reading letters full of treatment details for mother’s care. Photos are texted and I don’t really recognize her, but I recognize her, the strange yin-yang of illness. Her bed is surrounded by upright sentinels: oxygen readers, heart monitors, IV drips, and other machines I can’t even imagine.

It takes quite a few whiles to realize that you don’t have it in you to write back to kind notes on the blog, to talk to people on the phone, to do the grocery shopping. I take time to watch the rain, the hummingbird at my window.

It takes time to scroll and scroll on my phone, eyes glazed over while my heart and mind are focused on a slight elderly woman in a hospital bed far away. She’s 94. When I ask my doctor friend about strokes, I can hardly talk. “But she’s 94,” he said. “It’s not unexpected.” Yes. Right. Until it is. Then an uptick and life is almost normal for a few minutes. I forget that I am keeping company with the unthinkable thought, that my mother got “caught in the door” as my kind friend said, both of us thinking of the door out of this world.

I take the time to talk briefly with Dad; a nurse comes in and he is gone off to be beside my mother, leaving me wanting more time with him.

It took time last night, when talking to my sister, to tell her the story of saying good-bye to Joan’s family. And we are like that, too, I said. All seven of us have bits and splinters of our mother: the woman who loved to read, the 1940s glamour girl, the woman who was smart but stayed home to raise her children, the woman who went back to school in her fifties to earn her college degree, the good cook, the hostess, the loving mother and grandmother, the sharp wit and sometimes sharp tongue — it’s all there in all of us.

It takes time to recognize that you need to plan for an uncertain future. It takes time to wonder if she’ll have another stroke and I take time to do frantic research on the web. It takes time to wander around the house, to talk on the phone, to make and un-make plans. One late night I ask if I should come up. Oh, there’s plenty of time, came the reply.

We always think there is.

27 thoughts on “It Takes Time

  1. Dear Elizabeth, my heart goes out to you and your family. One of the worst things you can hear when your parents have a life-threatening episode is “it’s not unexpected”. Of course it’s unexpected! Even though we watch them age, we don’t really process what that means. We love them and we want them to go on being a part of our lives forever. I hope that your mother will be able to recover so you can have more time with her.

  2. Oh Elizabeth . . . I am so sorry to hear about your Mom. Take time for yourself. I will pray for peace of mind and heart for both of you.

  3. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Elizabeth. No matter what your age, your mom is your mom. I echo Marjorie’s sentiment—go now. I understand plans being upended, but that’s what life is. Being with your family is what matters right now.

  4. I am so saddened to hear of your mom’s stroke, Elizabeth. It is so hard to be so far away at times like these. We never like to think of our folks as being the age when things are “expected” to happen to them. If you are thinking of going, I’m sure your dad and siblings would appreciate the help and support you could offer them. Praying for all of you. It’ll be a long road ahead.

  5. GO – your dad will be very glad to see you & receive your hugs, support and love. Your mom will be too – she may not be lucid at this moment, but she probably hears everything. She may not yet be able to respond in a coherent way. Hearing your loving voice may just be what she needs right now. None of us knows what the near future holds. You won’t regret it. Let the rest of your family handle things as they feel comfortable, but do what YOUR heart is telling you to do. My prayers go to you, your family & your mom & dad.

  6. You are never far from my thoughts and prayers. This is a difficult time with difficult decisions.

  7. So sorry to hear about your mom. Its true it does take time and lots of praying.
    My husband suffered a stroke three years ago. I prayed , I cried and stayed my his side. God brought him though and me too. I will lift your mother up in prayer and you and your family too. Just remember God has you in his hands.

  8. Blessings to you and your family. Your mother is beautiful and I’m grateful that you shared your story. Think this through and let your heart lead you.

  9. I see you in your mom! She is beautiful, too. Lots of love going out from my heart to yours and prayers that you and your family will have the wisdom and strength to face whatever “time” brings.

  10. Sending comforting hugs and prayers. You should do what you feel called to do. If you are able at this time, you will never regret taking the time to go to your mother and father. This is a stressful time for all of you, so treat yourself gently. Take Care.

  11. Oh Elizabeth, what a time you are having. Be lead by your faith and your heart. If it feels right, go be with your mother and father. You will never regret it. Blessings on you and your parents at this challenging time. Prayers to you my friend.

  12. That was beautiful and so true. The time is to treasure the time you had with your
    Friend. Friends can be closer than family sometimes due to the time we spend with them through the years. Blessings to all.

  13. I love you dear sister. We will all get through this together. That is the strength of our family. ❤️

  14. What a difficult time. Your Mom sounds awesome. Whatever you decide if you do so prayerfully, you won’t regret going, or not going. It’s so hard to know in these “caught in the door” situations with so many other family members involved as well.

  15. I will hold your heart close to me as you navigate this journey with your family. Whatever choice you make, it will be the right choice for you.

  16. This is a timely post. I have just gone through this strange phase (and expect to again) with my mother. She’s out of the hospital now. Not quite the same as she was, but planning to drive herself hours away tomorrow. I don’t understand why my father won’t go with her, but a child apparently cannot parent a parent (at least in my family). I’ll be holding my breath.

  17. Your eloquent post is spot on regarding families and the ephemerality of life. I’m also reminded of the first noble truth in Buddhism that life is difficult. Wishing you strength and moments of peace as you navigate the tough challenges you are facing.

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