Thursday, March 16, 2006


you're free now...
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom.

Haven't had much time to write lately. Or to practice yoga, go to the gym and walk around feeling strong, read novels or poetry and get so excited about a paragraph or a verse that I hector everyone around me to STOP EVERYTHING and READ THIS right now. Haven't had enough time to meditate, or sit and drink my tea, talk on the phone with friends, surf blogs and say Amen! to the wonderful insights and stories I find there. Haven't had time to do the things that make my hours sing, and make me feel satisfied at the end of the day because I did what I needed to do. The things that allow me to name a day GOOD.

No, lately my days have been different. People I love have needed errands run, rides given, phone calls made, hours spent mulling decisions that need to be made or sitting in doctor's offices wondering how to explain a life to someone who may or may not give a damn. Have had to look into those faces in those offices and try to make them understand.

In the past, I would have really been thrown by this disruption of my routine, this unglodly interference with my "goals". But not this time. This time I've accepted that right now this is what I need to be doing, and it, too, is good.

This afternoon, arriving at the grocery store with my mother where I was shopping for three households, I was stopped by a lethargic supermarket employee. It was windy and this young woman clearly didn't want to push the two shopping carts she'd corralled uphill and into the store.

"Here, why don't you take these two?" she said in a helpful tone.

"Okay. Thank you," I said, pushing the carts up the hill. (Of course, one had a recalcitrant wheel.)

"You could have gotten a cart inside; she was just trying to get you to do her job," Mom pointed out.

"I guess she was," I said, still pushing.

"And you thanked her for it."

"I'm happy to be of service," I said. Really, I hadn't been all that happy about it, but saying it suddenly made me feel I was.

We had reached the top of the hill, and my mother took my arm. "What a wonderful attitude," she said, smiling at the bright day around us.

I didn't bother to explain that my attitude wasn't particularly a virtue. In fact, I'd invented it on the spot.

Then, leaving the store, my mother didn't want to get in the car.

"What's the matter?" I asked. We had two grocery carts full of food, and my mother was insisting she help load them into the trunk--despite a severe case of bursitis in her shoulder. I just wanted her to sit and rest.

"I was thinking of my father," she said. "And how once I had taken him somewhere, and I must have gotten impatient with him."

Really, I hadn't been impatient with Mom--at least, I don't think I had, but I'd felt the edges of impatience. Perhaps she had sensed it.

"What happened?" I said, allowing her to lift some the light bags , realizing that she didn't want to sit in the car and rest. She wanted to be of service, too.

"He pointed his finger at me and said, 'Someday you'll be old, too. And you know when?"

I stopped what I was doing and waited for her to finish.

"Sooner than you think. Much sooner than you think."


Sharon Hurlbut said...

Patry, I sometimes think we're on the same wavelength! Like you, I've spent the past couple of weeks doing lots of stuff, but very little writing or knitting or reading or any of the things that fill me up. Instead, I've been fighting a viral infection that makes me cough so hard I get splitting headaches, running errands, and trying to keep the household from going under. My mom was here visting, and I ended up having to take her to the ER at 2:30 in the morning on Friday, which was one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my life. She's fine, and has gone home now, and our lives are slowly reassembling into a somewhat normal configuration, but your essay just brought it all flooding back to me, and in your mother's words, I heard an echo of my own voice, warning that time is moving forward, whether I'm with it or not. It's time to put this treading of water behind me and get with it!

Lovely piece, and thanks for sparking thoughts that have been floating half-formed in the back of my mind!

floots said...

a great piece
i often think of rows and chilly spells
with my late parents as they aged
how could i have been better etc
more tolerant
suddenly i'm at the top of the tree
it happened sooner than i thought
(but i can still smile about it - and them)
thank you

Sky said...

Blogger is so messed up lately. This is showing NO comments yet some are posted here.

It is "sooner than I think" already, and I don't like it one little bit. I wasn't ready!

Crockhead said...

We should all give that line to our children, but, of course, they would have no idea what we're saying. But maybe they would remember it many years later. I'm already five years older than my father was when he died, and I don't feel like I've accomplished anything compared to him. Where did the time go?

robin andrea said...

Lately I've been impatient with my 80 year old mother. We talk on the phone once or twice day, and sometimes I am very abrupt with her. I always feel bad afterwards. Maybe a little deep breathing before our chats will help me stay grounded while she talks of all her aches and pains.

Thank you for this reminder.

Anonymous said...

Love the ones in front of you while you still have them. They are gone sooner than you think, too.

The great thing about blogging and blog reading is it's still there when you get back, and nobody really minds if you get busy for a bit. It works on OUR schedules, and not someone else's!

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

This reminds me of a story my mother likes to tell about me when I was six or seven and she caught me gazing hard at an old woman, shaking my head.
“Don’t stare,” she scolded.
“I’m not,” I said. “I was just thinking that you shouldn’t feel sorry for old people, because we’ll all be old someday and I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.”

My mother is very proud of this story.

Anonymous said...

How very relevant this post is for me. I take my mom grocery shopping once a week and must admit to feeling impatient at times. Next time.. I am going to give her a great big hug and count my blessings.

MB said...

Oh, Patry, yes. Sooner than we think. All of us. Each of us.

And will you say this to your children, I wonder.

Patry Francis said...

sharon: thanks so much for sharing your common experiences. The best thing for me, as a blogger, is when a reader deepens and expands what I've written by adding their own story to it. Hope you're feeling better and finding time to do the things you love.

r: welcome home.

floots: "The top of the tree"--I like that description of age. It implies a better view.

sky: Readiness is relative. Reading the wise words you write, I think you're more prepared for "sooner" than most.

amishlaw: I agree! Though the young don't spend much time contemplating the brevity of existence--nor should they--I think they know when they've been told something significant. And that it is stored for later use.

r.d.: Just having you as a daughter to talk to once or twice a day must make those aches and pains easier to bear.

donna: "love the ones in front of you while you can"--surely the wisest advice ever...

jordan: No wonder your mother loves this story! You are one of those rare people who are born wise. But then, I knew that.

Colleen: I'll be thinking of you and your mother next week on shopping day. And I, too, will give mine a big hug.

Patry Francis said...

mb: looks like we x-posted. Yes, I probably will say it...

Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post, and so perfectly written. I've spent an awful lot of time with the aging people in my family over the past ten years, and it's impossible not to get irritated sometimes. Your mother explains why not to, and you point to the way to deal with it. Thanks for this, Patry.

Alex S said...

What a rich, thought provoking post. We can quietly take on moments such as those and choose new attitudes on the spot. Its wonderful to be reminded of that from time to time. And that none of us are immune to the aging process though we may try to dodge it, its coming no matter what, and we might as well use that to grow into all we can yet become!

P. A. Moed said...

I'm going to echo what you and Sharon have said. The past 2.5 weeks have been unbelievable. My husband had emergency surgery and a number of post-op infections and tests, which have raised more troubling health issues, so I do know what you're talking about! It's so important to see each new blip on the radar screen as a signal to summon our strength, our wisdom and our patience.

Cate said...

I was glued to every word that you have written here--there was no tugging me away from your writing or the lessons that I needed to hear.

It's funny--as soon as someone would've pointed out to me that the grocery store employee had "conned" me in some way, I would've been filled with resentment and anger. I love how you CHOSE to be happy, just as you chose to accept that all of the errands and other stuff that took you away from your regular routine were necessary at this point in time.

I cannot wait to read your book.

P.S. And this line: "sitting in doctor's offices wondering how to explain a life to someone who may or may not give a damn. Have had to look into those faces in those offices and try to make them understand." Rarely have I read anything so astute, so spot on.

Patry Francis said...

Beth: Thank you. I've just been going through the wonderful posts about your father-in-law so I appreciate your empathy.

finn: "Old is what we're born to be." What wise words.

alexandra g: Thanks for your comment--and the infusion of your positive spirit. I can feel it all the way from Portland to Cape Cod!

Patricia: Sorry to hear about your husband's illness. I'll be sending good thoughts and prayers for strength, serenity, and health your way.

Cate: Thanks so much for your kind words--and especially for saying you want to read The Liar's Diary.

Maybe choosing how you react to things is like a muscle. Exercise it and it grows stronger. I'm still experimenting...