It was a bad fall, though she didn’t get injured, not really, well, she bruised her knee. It was bad because it was so dramatic and she is getting old and frail and it brought a crowd of people and eventually the airport paramedics.
My mother turned 80 the Monday before Thanksgiving. A few months ago, my sisters and I planned a special get together in Salt Lake City an hour drive north from where she was born and raised and where she married my dad. My mom doesn’t like to leave her house much, let alone her city. Recently, I invited her over to my house to hear my son’s Suzuki book three cello recital, but she declined. It was too late for her, and she wasn’t dressed, nor had any desire to get dressed.
But she was excited to go up to Utah, to visit Payson, to see her Grandmother’s grave, to do a temple session in the Payson temple, to see her brother and of course her daughters. She hasn’t seen my younger sister since my dad died, over five years ago. She’s seen my older sisters more recently who are more able to make the trip down to see her. Like I said, my mom does not like to leave her house much. If you want to see her, you have to make the effort.
At any rate, we had planned this trip, to fly up to Payson on Thursday morning, stay through the weekend together with my sisters to celebrate her 80th birthday. On the way there, I got into my own flying habits forgetting I was also responsible for a frail 80 year old woman who doesn’t get out much. My first mistake was that I did not check in our bags.
Which worked out ok, though I was largely responsible for them. And I tried to be, hauling two suitcases and two carry-on bags onto the plane, while my mom, went toward the back of the plane without me. This proved to be too much for me, so as we left the plane, I asked her if she could at least drag one of the suitcases on wheels from the plane, while I managed the rest.
This seemed to work for a while. We navigated our way through the gate and toward the exit. I was thinking ahead, knowing we had to get our rental car. I worried about the escalator (tripping hazard) and we went down the elevator instead. Coming off the elevator about to turn toward the exit, she fell, tripping on I’m not sure what. Perhaps I rushed her, perhaps she was tired, forced to walk far more than she was accustomed.
It wasn’t an awkward fall, where you try to catch yourself, she fell straight forward. I don’t believe she hit her head, but I’m not sure, I was a little in front of her eyeing the exit when it happened. The only thing that hurt was her knee. The paramedics came. We refused the ambulance but promised we would have it checked out. She got a wheel chair and I got someone to push her to the rental car place. Eventually, we did get her to an instant care and had her knee x-rayed. It as bruised, but thankfully not broken.
Why does this matter?
Well, I think about all of my responsibilities, both actual and hoped for. And I often think big. I want to have a voice, a responsibility. I want to speak and I want a lot of people to listen. I’d like an audience. I’d like to accomplish things that a lot of people notice. I’m not proud of this. It’s selfish, self-promoting, self-indulgent. It’s an impulse I try to tap down.
One step beyond this, there are things I purely enjoy doing. I enjoy carting my kids around to their activities. I enjoy going to their concerts or cheering them on in their games or coaching their sports teams. I enjoy my job. I like writing. I really enjoy reading. I mostly enjoy housework, though I should enjoy (and do it) more and better.
But I don’t always enjoy my mom. She’s difficult. She doesn’t give a lot back. I love her deeply. I feel an emotional attachment to her. I care about her. I don’t want her to suffer. But she is nonetheless difficult. And she, all in all, doesn’t ask for a lot. She needs more than she asks for. She didn’t ask for this 80th birthday celebration. She doesn’t even ask for help navigating the steps. She’ll wander on ahead or be left behind without complaint. But she needs it. She needs someone by her side helping her along. She needs care, company, and attention.
I can’t give her everything she needs. But it’s a significant part of my spiritual practice that I give her what I can. And an even bigger part of my spiritual practice that I’m all in, attentive, aware, and there for her when I am with her.