Caring for a parent, Self-care, When the elderly fall

Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

Trauma sells. It sells newspapers, magazines, television, and apparently blog posts. My post Midnight in the ER: Part 1 has had more than quintuple the number of views of all but two of the other 60  posts on this blog. I am grateful for your support and prayers, and for your expressions of love and concern. They have sustained me.

Several comments included admonitions that I should not feel guilty about my role in the accident. I was responsible, there is no doubt about that; Mama trusted me to keep her upright on uneven ground, and I failed. But blame and guilt? I just have never been very good with that state of being; it has always seemed to me unhelpful to all parties. The prevalence of the comment interests me, though; and makes me wonder if something is wrong with me that I am not beating myself up. Guilt is a human condition, I know. In my family, however, my mother has used up the family allotment. I don’t see her as greedy; perhaps she has had need of more than her share all these decades. I’m okay with her hogging it.

In fact, she is so determined not to share it that she asked me a couple days ago if I have nightmares about the accident; if I replay falling over and over in my dreams? I said not when I’m asleep, only when I’m awake. (And really, after writing about it, and crying as I typed, I mostly have let even that go. We only have the future; can’t go back.) She said she had been thinking about it, and she believes she might have stuck her cane out to help her balance and maybe I tripped on it and so it was her fault not mine and therefore I should not feel guilty about what happened next. There just isn’t enough guilt to go around in this family after she takes what she needs, even when it’s not hers to assume. I told her no one is to blame: it happened.

I am trying to spend these days as I spend my days with Elliot, Learning to Be a Grandparent: just giving them to Mama and not lamenting that I cancelled two hair appointments, a dentist appointment, and will be at the ENT with her tomorrow rather than at yoga. I am trying to let go of the fact that I haven’t left the property alone in five days except to go to the grocery store twice. I’m struggling with the possibility I will have to give up my five day respite retreat next week. The fact that I have just enumerated the sacrifice is a true confession of my failure to freely give. I’m doing the best I can, but often I wish my best was better.

I returned to the garden yesterday for the first time since Thursday evening. I repaired the fence in two places where I fell into it. I pocketed a piece of Mama’s shattered clip-on sunglasses I had missed before. And I did a bit of what one is supposed to do in a garden: I planted more lettuce and chard, checked the progress of the broccoli and beans, and thinned a few things. Then I closed the gate and pulled a mountain of weeds that Mama calls bed straw from the edges of the meadow. Like pulling ivy in my Raleigh garden, it was cathartic. Sometimes healing comes with cleaning out the crap and creating space, not only with planting and filling space.

I hope Mama will get back to her garden soon. She has flowers to plant, and that will help her heal. She is doing better, but had a bad night last night. I stood by her bed for nearly an hour at 2am trying unsuccessfully to make her comfortable. I suspect she would have been happy, through the long miserable night, to go on to her heavenly garden—though she doesn’t believe there is such a place; she says she has had more than she deserves in the earthly garden and it is enough.

If she leaves this garden because she can’t cope with her injuries—or worse, is unable to enjoy it again—I may claim my share of guilt after all.

2 thoughts on “Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden”

  1. Going forward is a healthy state of mind, and I applaud your outlook. I think guilt can serve a useful purpose: if we feel guilty about something we’ve done or said, we can jump from there to feeling truly remorseful. Only when we feel remorse can we learn from the episode and have the strong emotional incentive for not doing it again.

    Things out of our control, such as your accident, which you may view as your “causing” your mother to leave this garden because she can’t cope with her injuries, or because she can no longer enjoy the garden…well, maybe this is the way fate made things come about to help your Mama make her exit to beyond the horizon. It may be the way she’s meant to leave the world. It may not be the way she is meant to go. Either way, it’s fine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s