A man on the sidewalk this morning sent a boisterous, “Good morning!” my way, and my first reflex was to go, “well, what if it’s NOT?” — but I smiled back instead, thank God. This week has not been entirely easy, but I try to remind myself that I am doing my best — and am mostly not rude out loud, also thank God.
Finding out that your mom is in the hospital when you are states away is complete bullshit. She is doing alright, says my family full of medical professionals, who keep telling me about tests and drugs I have never heard of. The first time I got that phone call, I was in a Baltimore living room. Another time I was in Colorado. It’s all bullshit — and I have told God this many times, and through my irreverence He keeps on saving the day, and Mom improves.
God can be annoying, which I can say, because it is how I feel. I love Him, inbetween the pissy moments, while I wait for test results and try not to WebMD myself to death. All bullshit. Sorry for saying bullshit so many times.
But my friend Anne Lamott (again, how I feel) wrote this book, which happened to arrive in the mail three days ago, and I have plopped my butt down to go over her words — “hallelujah anyway.” Personally, I would like a hall pass from that. God thought I would be down for a sick mother? After everything else? You have got to be kidding me. I have to still be merciful and smile to the joyful man on the sidewalk and not just throw my arms up and give up on optimism completely?
Yes, says Anne — “because love and caring are marbled into the worst life has to offer.”
The real story here is that I am terrified. We control so little — what happens to my mom, and, well, pretty much everything else. But I can call her, even if it is hard to handle the exhaustion in her voice. I can suck it up, and be glad that she is shopping for bread mixes from her hospital bed. I can clear a day in my schedule to go help when the others have to go back to work. I can have her favorite cheesecake shipped from Brooklyn. Thank God.
I can trust my sister, who has moved into the hospital room and brought along creature comforts, and sent others to take care of the two diva Westies currently under my mother’s care. Plus there’s my father, who has gotten her to the wing of his hospital with the best nurses (which was seamless, as he is so beloved for his heart and work ethic and “whatever I can do to help” spirit — I have very good genes, I’m telling you) — but of course has let my mother believe it was luck of the draw, as she would be mortified to think anyone lifted a finger for her. My father has carried watching the unsinkable powerhouse of our family, the love of his life, grow weaker over time — and she has smiled through it, even while needing machines to help her breathe.
He protects me from the nuances of her medical ups and downs, I think mostly to help me cool it with the Klonopin. He has always shielded me from things, as a way to make up for the difficulties I have already run into. A family of elastic hearts — truly. Hallelujah for THAT.
Hallelujah anyway, even knee-deep in bullshit. We breathe and we carry on. Yep. Trust me, I don’t like it either. But: hallelujah anyway.
“Hallelujah that in spite of it all, there is love, there is singing, nature, laughing, mercy.”
— Anne Lamott
”and shippable cheesecake.”