Difficulty makes us do interesting things. My father just recently ended up in hospital not in a dramatic, emergency, house on fire kind of way but rather in a slow, painful, more and more and more of the same kind of chronic low grade sadness kind of way that accompanies long term illness.
Because it was not a full on emergency- we got up, ate breakfast, went for an early swim and let my mom come to it in her time. We could no longer manage him, move him, raise him or motivate him.
The paramedics came in we helped put him onto the stretcher and then they asked if we could carry their heavy bags and equipment up to the ambulance. You know you are calm and strong when the helpers ask for you to help. My mom went in the ambulance- everyone moving slowly- nothing about this illness is swift. People always complain about swift. Slow has its own painful meter. Swift is a bus hitting you unexpectedly and knocking you flat and lifeless. Slow is a wolf of sadness at your door, knocking hard everyday, trying to break the door down relentlessly.
My girls went inside and made cookies.They were really pretty and had the shapes for everyone’s initials. I started sweeping. My mom had cleaned the basement that morning. Usually she irons the bed linens in these moments. This is what you do when you can’t do anything. You try to find order, make order or make beautiful.
When my father almost died in June 2008-I was in the hospital with my mom and we went to get a bite to eat because she had had nothing for several hours. We sat dazed in a busy cafeteria, the emotion of the event unavailable because it still felt unreal. We weren’t speaking. Finally my mother said angrily “Why on earth would anyone choose a carpet colour like that? It is disgusting. Honestly.” I turned to her and said ” Yes, if we are going to spend any real time here mom, you are going to have to whip this place into shape” We both laughed hard.
This is what we do when we can’t do anything.