My 85 year old mother is staying with me. Her two month visit has been extended to four months, owing in part to health challenges. Her cognition is erratic. Porpoising. Sometimes up and sometimes diving down.
During this volatile period, I’ve found myself without guideposts or markers. I wake up not knowing what to expect. One day last week I couldn’t locate Mom. After searching the house and the neighborhood, I found her in the guest apartment, hiding from a nightmare.
The next day she cheerfully announced she needed a daily chore list. I complied. Sweep the driveway. Empty the dishwasher. Brush the dog. Refill the bird bath. Water the plants. Now she gets up and goes to her chores. She is much happier.
In this time of unknowing I’m finally driven to practice some of the mindfulness stances I’ve read about for years: be open, stay awake, connect, be present, surrender.
The most helpful practices are totally ordinary. We watch classic movies (Mary Poppins last night) read Dave Barry columns aloud, walk, cook, do chores, and feed birds. These are my main spiritual practices now. They’re teaching me gratitude, acceptance and trust– trust in the present moment. That it is enough.
Another kind of practices are teaching me about surrender.. These include paying attention to blood pressure and medications. And encouraging reminiscences, which take a lot of time. And letting go of what I thought I had to be doing, my routine ways of working and being which feel less pressing now.
We have only a month left together before she returns to the East Coast. A month to watch the birds, to write down every one we see. A month to marvel at the splashing and chirping, the beads of water glinting in tiny beaks, the drops rainbowing from ordinary brown wings.