Friday, September 26, 2014

A postcard from the way to kindergarten

I began a practice of sending my mom postcards from a wonderful Canada Post app on my phone, which transformed a photo on the phone to a printed postcard with the space for a message on the back.  Every month or so, I would send her one with an update on the family, a photo of my garden or a funny picture of one of us.  It allowed her to be connected with us so far away.  Now that she is close by, I found that I miss the regular opportunity to share what is new or silly that way.  

Writing on a regular basis seems to be a challenge and yet I am so very present to the value of pausing to reflect.  So marking the landmark of the first day of school for precious grandson number one is a perfect chance to write a postcard about the event.

As we walked together with his mom and baby brother in the stroller, my sweet grandson would alter between running ahead of us and lagging behind, holding my hand as the pace slowed when we got nearer to the school.  I watched his clear brown eyes widen when we got on the grounds with the children filing back in after lunch.  They all seemed really big compared to him.  The little "kindies" were there for their first time in the classroom, only 90 minutes to meet their kindergarten teachers and stay with their grown-ups to try on a mini session before the first full day.  

He is used to group activity, having been in organized daycare pretty much full time since he was two years old so some of the process was familiar.  I could see his nervousness though, as he sucked on his sleeve and his finger and stuck pretty close to his mama.  I stood back with the wee-est one to let his mom share this experience.  I remember the importance of being there for the firsts.

I know he will be fine, he is a strong, resilient dandelion kind of kid, cheerful, happy, funny and bright.  He will make friends easily and weather the storms well because he knows he is deeply loved by many people.  So, why are there tears as I type this?  When I think about the letting go of my own children and how flippin' fast those years went by, I want to freeze frame this tender little being.  I want him to be able to keep the soft, loving way he is with the people in his circle.  This is a kid who hugged all his friends every day before he left daycare. Insisted upon it, wanted to make sure that his buddies knew he loved them and was going to miss them overnight.  

Is there room for that in public school?  In the world of boys growing up and comparing themselves with their peers?  How do I support him growing up, strong and resilient and yet preserving that sparkling essence that is so bright and visible in him right now?  Will it still be okay to hang out with his Grammy and pretend to be space pilots on missions to Pluto? 

The grace of grandparenthood is the perspective of having done this before and yet that is also the challenge.  I know, like really get it, how soon it will be that he is graduating from high school - a blink of an eye.  The brilliant piece of all of this is knowing that the foundation we have built, the rock solid relationship we have will continue and we will talk. We will converse about the crummy teachers and the ones he loves, the rotten kids and the new best friends, the stupid girls and the ones that capture his heart.  

When his mom called me this morning just after 9 am in tears, I knew she had just dropped him off for his first full day.  I assured her that he will be totally okay, but I know what she was feeling, watching his sturdy little body, in his new school clothes, backpack on and lunchkit in hand, entering a whole new world.  Be safe out there, little one.  We won't let you forget who you are. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Letting go and passages of life

I was going through the dresser in my mama's bedroom, preparing the few things that will accompany her to the Long Term Care community that is her new home.  At least, I certainly hope it will be, the final answer has not been determined, but like one of my wise friends advised, I am moving ahead as if what I want has already happened. I will only be able to bring a few suitcases of her belongings on the first part of this journey and need to organize what other pieces will be shipped in the coming weeks.  

The top drawer was stuck and I could barely get my fingers in to feel what was preventing it from opening.  After a number of frustrating moments with a wooden spoon, I pulled out the drawer beside it and reached in to push an old picture frame down to free the drawer.  The contents are many old photographs, documents and keepsakes from my father, my grandparents and my mom.  The photo that was stuck was a portrait of my mom at about 20 years old, a beautiful sepia toned black and white of this gorgeous, vibrant young woman, her curly thick hair pulled back from her face and her full lips are in a welcoming smile.  She is wearing rhinestone earrings that I recognize from a set she has since given to me and a matching brooch.  Her eyes capture you with their pure determination and her flawless, smooth skin glows.  She is a stunning woman and at once I understood why this photo stopped me from opening the drawer.

My mom is 89 almost 90 years old and is at the end of her life.  She nearly accomplished her wish to die in her home and would have, had the Health Care aide not found her collapsed by the side of the bed with a nearly fatal low blood oxygen level.  I flew to be by her side, not knowing what to expect when I arrived and she has now spent over two weeks in the geriatric unit of a local hospital.  In her typically stubborn manner, she has rallied, sufficiently to be ready to be discharged next week, but has been assessed incapable of being in her home alone, due to dementia and incapacity to be mobile without assistance. The opportunity to move her to the retirement community where I work part time came up and most of the paperwork is complete to set the wheels in motion.  

It is a huge move, away from the city that has been her home for 85 years and the house that she has lived in for the past 56 of them.  She and my father raised my brother and I here but my mom was the glue, the backbone of the family.  My father's life was an interesting one, fodder for many other blogs. He died at the young age of 67.  Mom has been here on her own for almost 28 years.  Being in her home has been the single driving force for her life in the past decade and up to 3 weeks ago, I would have bet money on her not ever leaving it.  Now, given the choice of living in a Long Term Care home here in Calgary with none of her family nearby, or a move to Victoria where we all are (me, my brother, my husband, her two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren), she chose to trust me to move her to somewhere safe.  She has also entrusted me with emptying her home and selling it to finance the steep monthly care fees to keep her going.

I have spent the past two and half weeks in my childhood home, sleeping in it alone for the first time.  It has been a period of letting go and saying goodbye.  My mom's memory, gracefully has already faded many of the details of the house and she seems quite accepting, if a little frightened, of the change.  For me, it represents a huge task, but one that I have found can be paid for with a service that will clear the entire house in 4 days.  My brother wants some time to be here but I am leaning towards the fee for freedom method!

Today, I am celebrating the magnificent young woman who smiles at me as I type this from her dining room table.  I honour you, Mama, and promise I will take very good care of you and all that you have collected over the years.  In my heart, I understand why that drawer wouldn't open, she doesn't want to leave, any more than she wants to be in that creaky, painful old body.  I am absolutely certain that the spirit of this being is alive and well inside my mama.  

There will undoubtedly be more reflection as the final days here wind down, along with a whirlwind of tasks to be completed.  I felt it important to pause today, Easter Sunday, to love and let go of this piece of my mom and to move swiftly to the place where we are now, with joy and anticipation of the time to come.