The choices are hard. Real life goes on outside the caregiving bubble. Obligations, deadlines, growing grass… And making choices without regrets is tricky because you’ll have to let go of something.

The thing is, these difficult choices are finite: the choice to be still and sit with your person versus tend to real life tasks will end when your person is gone. I don’t even remember which deadline was looming on April 20 last year, and the grass certainly didn’t stay mowed after I spent hours cutting it that weekend. The deadlines and the grass continue to creep up on me, but mom is gone. I don’t wallow in regrets, but I know I could have carried forward less regrets if I had chosen mom that weekend.

You have choices. You can’t avoid regrets, but some regrets are harder to carry. Be mindful as you choose. 

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.
Visits with mom

Mom still loves visits.

Her fight to show up for us remains fierce. I can’t say I show up for visits with her ferocity.

It’s spring, and dad and I have impossible to-do lists that crowd our sleep and our clocks, an evil formula at work: the longer the list of to-dos, the deeper the craving for sleep. Can I take a nap? Sleep on it? But the pressure to get through the list and all the other things that crop up wins.

Mom wants to move around, visit, see familiar faces around a table. A few short minutes of a visit brightens the rest of her day. But we’re leaning harder on the sitters to sub in for our time with mom.

She’s calling for you.

On Monday, I stopped in on my way out. Not a good formula for a sit-with-me visit.

“She was calling for you this morning,” the sitter told me.

I hardly saw mom on Saturday and Sunday, and here it is Monday and I’m breezing through with a kiss and a promise: “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

I channeled mom most of the weekend as I scrambled to catch up, doing all the things she used to do! Chasing blades of grass with the Kubota, sawing volunteer trees out of the fence row, attacking weeds in the flower beds, hauling sand for the beds, repotting bulbs, watering… And company. Gotta cook! Did I make the tea?

I felt close to mom but I wasn’t. As I caught my breath, maneuvered the mower, used my teeth to pull briars from my skin, and shook under the saw blade, mom was far away, in her living room recliner sitting with her Alzheimer’s and the sitter.

I’m not even close.

“She called for you,” the weekend sitter told me when I finally stopped by for a few minutes on Sunday.

All that time not sitting with mom, and I didn’t even come close to catching up.

Where is the balance between virtue and grace? The virtue of getting through a to-do list and RL obligations vs. the grace of stopping for a minute, to sit still and be present?

Just sit with meYou can see the longing in her eyes and gestures.

But the grass is high, and I have a deadline. Also, I started this new thing…

Just sit.

Can I bring my computer?

Just sit with her can be the hardest thing when I give gravity and favor to my “things.”

Shrinking soul

“She’s been calling for you.” My soul shrinks with these words. Like Raymie’s in Raymie Nightingale, it becomes as tiny as a period.

I’m only in the middle of Kate DiCamillo‘s book, so I’m not sure of the fate of Raymie’s soul. I do know that this soul shrinking business is uncomfortable.

I want soul expansion, a billowing tent that catches fresh air. She’s been calling for you drives home a truth: my choices are the breath that expand and collapse my soul.

The yard is done. Yay me. But if my soul feels like it’s disappearing, so what? Where is the grace in the virtue of a mowed yard when She’s been calling for me?

I’m annoyed with myself but glad mom asked after me. It’s a good reminder: schedule more visits.

I’ve revised this week’s to-dos to include buying some ice cream on a stick (mom’s joy), sitting, strolls, and puzzles. I’ll probably squirm some, uncomfortable, so many important things to do. But I’ll sit with my discomfort too until I find a better answer.

In a world pressurized by electricity, devices, deadlines, and the wild growth of grasses, weeds, and existential crises, my soul yearns for more than virtue of jobs well-done. Surely grace visits when we sit still.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022