Thursday, October 22, 2009

Senior Witch in stir

Just about everyone Walhydra knows at work, at home and online seems to be hanging by a thread right now.

Between deaths, illnesses, severely increasing staff and budget austerity on the job, loss of jobs, loss of homes, and so on, friends are barely managing—yet still managing, somehow—to hold each other up in tenderness. Forgiving each others lapses and sharp edges, simply because Something keeps helping them to remember that they are all in this together.

Walhydra and Hubby Jim, themselves, have been struggling for weeks with the reality that their Mom, Senior Witch, can no longer live safely in assisted living.

She has fallen five times since the beginning of September, three of those falls in one week, all of them alone in her room.

Three trips to ER, two cuts to the forehead which required stitches, a hospital stay for CAT scans, MRI and ultrasound of the carotid arteries, but no explanation for the falls—except that she is increasingly neglecting food, water and hygiene and probably standing up too fast.

When Walhydra brought Senior Witch back from being stitched up after the latest fall two weeks ago, she knew decisively that it was time to move her Mom into skilled nursing care.

This has been a wrenching experience...and Walhydra is so exhausted that she is letting her amanuensis fill out this post with excerpts from an email exchange with R, JimJim's ex and still a dear friend and mentor for both Walhydra and her hubby.

Here's the gist of it.

Monday, R:
Thanks for the update, how are you holding up sport? Love you muchly.
Tuesday, W:
I feel like I haven't slept in six weeks, since Mom's first fall (Sept. 5). Not constant worry, but constant background worry. You know how that goes.

Lot's of friendly support, good on-going contact with my sister and brother.

Thanks for your love.
Tuesday, R:
Hugs babe.
Wednesday, W:
Thanks, R.

I'm concerned, because I catch myself being tempted by the old lure of depression, that false escape from difficulties. Don't want to go that road again, precisely because it makes it so much harder to act decisively...but I'm sad and tired...and everyone around me seems the same.

Running on faith without the accompanying feelings at present.

The coincidence of autumn and Mom's drastic decline leaves me plodding along. Jim's very burned out, too, from a very heavy work load this semester. And we're struggling at the library due to hiring freeze, budget cuts and, now, seasonal illnesses.

National and global news is not uplifting either.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

[Thanks, Walhydra, for the note of levity. :-) ]

All sounds worse than it probably actually is...but that's the difficulty.

Where did I leave my bootstraps?

Wednesday, R:
I gladly will loan you my boot hooks to go into your bootstraps, dear friend, and I praise God that you really do not need them.

You are your mother's witch child, and you know the things you must do, even as tired as you may feel.

I can and do send you my energy to share and use just as quickly as you need to. I am with you always and will give you strength to persevere my friend.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help." (Psalm 121:1)

Bless├Ęd Be.
Thursday, W:
Thanks, Dear One.

As you point out, there is that higher order level of awareness which continues to say, "You know the things you must do."

This morning, when the alarm went off at 6:30, I found I wanted to get out of bed at once.

That's progress.

I did my lower back exercises for the first time in weeks. I dressed. I fed the furry brothers. I actually ate breakfast myself, instead of running away from the house in the morning dark and getting just coffee at Starbucks.

That's progress.

Mom doesn't understand why she's where she is now, and she wants me to "take her home."

I know she has to stay in skilled nursing—regardless of how well rehab goes.

Somehow, we all need to help her to understand, at some level, that this new place is safe and wholesome.

Aside from the dementia, there is the dislocation for this very private person of being in a hospital-like room with no privacy, and the noise of other residents and staff (and the beeping of alarms) all around her....

And no room in the room. Just the bed, the nightstand, the cupboard...and the other bed. That bed is now empty, but it stands as a further "threat" to personal boundaries.


I hate it myself. When I first saw the room, I felt despair, even knowing she has to stay here. Especially knowing she has to stay here.

I can't tell how demented she is, how much or little of this she normally notices...because when we visit, she is still able to come into focus and present something of the old Senior Witch persona and intelligence.

I can tell she is unhappy.

Prayers for Mom. Inward assurance and peace.

What else can we do?

Love, and
Blessed Be.
Walhydra realized today that this space also reminds her of twelve years "behind the wall" as a prison counselor...watching pairs of inmates share rooms the size of her bathroom.

The Prisoner Song, Vernon Dalhart (Guy Massey)Senior Witch jokes that, as a child, she distressed her beloved maiden aunts during a holiday visit by singing a song she'd learned on the radio.

It was one she liked the sound of, but whose lyrics she barely paid attention to as she sang them.

Her aunts thought she was singing about staying with them.
Now if I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly....
Now Walhydra will have to hang the picture of these two aunts over Senior Witch's bed and tease her into singing that song.

Senior Witch does still have a sense of humor...thank Goddess! It's in there...somewhere....

Here's Hubby Jim's response to Walhydra's latest email (which she CCed to him):
I love you very much, Sweet Man. Let’s work together to help her to adjust to the new environment, and to assure her that we will be there when she needs us.
Walhydra says, "Let's all work together to help all of us, to assure all of us."

What else can we do?

Blessed Be.

Another sweet reply from our friend R:
I find so very startling at times to realize that no matter how much I wish to ignore the hard decisions of life, the inner spirit always guides me in the right direction to do the things I must do for peace of mind.

Be at peace with that which has presented itself to Senior Witch as she walks softly into the sunset of her mind for I am convinced that when we may be presented with what appears as confusion, she is in some special mode of recall that allows her to persist in the life and loves she has left in this life.

Confusion to us may be a process of discarding the unwanted and, more importantly unnecessary baggage, to allow for the warmth or grace to seep into the very marrow of her being.

May it be so for her and eventually for us as well.


Peace is with you, in you, and around you; stop and take notice of the peace of God.

(Please note that I am in tears because I am preaching to my self as well brother.)

Ahhh, Blessed Peace...

I love you, R


Peter Bishop said...

Nothin' I can do at this distance but let you know I'm thinking about you. I wish you strength.

Hystery said...

I'm not sure if you know how great a blessing you have offered in sharing this story here. So many of us care for our parents and grandparents and too much of the material on the topic neglects the spiritual aspect of that experience.

Grandpa needed so much care in his dementia and all of us were needed to get through a day. It was exhausting and hopeless and depressing. And then he'd smile at me with that old twinkle in his eye. He asked me to marry him once. "Marry me, honey," he said to me. (He confused all the women in his family. At times I was his granddaughter, wife, and mother). "No, Grandpa. That won't work."
"We can make it work," he coaxed. It hurt like hell to know that he could not truly remember my identity. Still, he remembered that he loved me and that had to be enough.

We were on a journey, all of us together with Grandpa. It hurt like hell and it wore me out, and it sent me to dark places. But still I was one of his traveling companions of his last journey on earth. He asked me to marry him. He asked me to stay with him and I was honored by the invitation.

Here's a blessing for you from the Celtic Devotional by Caitlin Matthews:

"May the Seeker of Quests direct your step.

May the Holy Ones protect your passage.

May helping hands be extended to you on every side."

You have my love,

Vicki said...

Hystery's Celtic blessing made me think of this favorite poem by John O'Donohue, which I'm putting here in its entirety because that's what I feel have to do.


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Bright Crow (Mike Shell) said...


Thank you for your comments. These are powerfully uplifting for me.

"...may the clay dance
to balance you."

What an image of the divinity of earth!

Blessed Be,