Friday, I went to see my parents with a friend from an African–but very urban–culture. She had met my parents in the crowd at my house for Thanksgiving, and clearly honored them, commenting how obviously smart my father is. Perhaps a genius? she ventured. Well. At some things, maybe. This friend and I met for coffee Friday, and were so enjoying our visit, that I asked if she would like to come with me to see my parents, since she had wanted to do so in the past. She did want to go–my guess is that her culture is a lot more respectful of the elderly than we are; it’s only right to meet and show respect to the elderly. I reminded my friend that my mother was…well…like a child. Oh yes, she said, that is from getting old. Huh. Good point. Her comment brought me up short. If I had told a friend who had grown up in our culture about Mom’s condition, likely there would be sympathy, a bit of shaking our fists at her fate, and I would have ended up as I usually do, thinking UNFAIR TO MOM! Perhaps expectation of childishness at the end of life makes for a more serene acceptance. We American-acculturated people expect to tackle problems and FIX them, not accept them. We see a tragedy where other cultures see a normal progression of life. This gives me something to think about. And yet…some cultures accept all diseases as inevitable; would I want to accept polio or would I rather get a vaccine? Two ways of seeing the world, both valid. The Serenity Prayer has it right:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
In other news, I took Mom to the foot doctor this morning. She had complained of more than the usual foot pain early in December. Of course, the appointment–since she was a new patient–was in mid-January, and by the time the appointment rolled around today, Mom’s foot wasn’t feeling too bad. I decided to take her anyway, even knowing that there might not be treatment since Mom’s pain was greatly reduced. At least she would be a patient, and we could get her in faster the next–inevitable!–time it flared up. Mom and I have some of the flattest feet around, and after 88 years, her arches have completely collapsed. Almost certainly there will be another episode of pain.
The snow was falling at 8:30 when I set out to get her. The trees’ limbs were coated with snow, creating a lovely drive to Bickford. Mom was ready to go, though she had no idea what we were going to do or why. She was able to appreciate the beauty of the snowy scene, though she rarely had the right word to comment or ask a question. I supplied the word “snow,” “trees” “cars” etc. I will say, in response to the question of unfairness and acceptance, that I think it’s just a bit much to rob her of communication. I hate that she struggles so to say what she means. Hate it.
When we arrived at the office, the receptionist asked for the papers I was supposed to fill out. Papers? What? I was pretty sure I knew nothing about papers, but I looked in the zippered compartment of my ENORMOUS purse (that’s for you, Mom!) where I sometimes store such things. Lo and behold: a miracle. I had filled the papers out six weeks ago and put them in my purse where I couldn’t forget them. I was SO proud. My triumph was short-lived, because the next question was “May I have her insurance information?” Duh. Since I always have my insurance cards with me, it did not occur to me that I needed to get Mom’s from her wallet. From the Ecstasy of Victory to the Agony of Defeat in about 10 seconds flat. After some wrangling, the receptionist was willing to let me call when we got Mom home with the numbers. It’s a little pathetic to know that I’m always trying really hard to take care of responsibilities well, and this sort of goof appears in my life all too often.
Mom did end up getting a cortisone injection; both feet have arthritis and plantar fasciitis, but the injection is to quiet the pain in her left foot. Her foot was tender to the touch, and perhaps the cortisone will reduce inflammation and put off significant pain for some months. It’s so hard to know what to do, because I don’t want to over-treat medically, but I don’t want to under-treat, either. This treatment is relatively benign, so I hope it will not cause any additional problems for her, and that she might even be relieved of some pain. Dad has a cold or laryngitis, and has the deepest gravely voice I’ve ever heard from him. It doesn’t seem to bother him much; when I visited briefly after taking Mom out, he was happy from taking care of a SHOWER, and commented on the wonderful teamwork that makes such a demanding project possible. Call Ripley’s Believe it or Not! He also commented on all the birds at the feeder and how much entertainment it provides him. Right now, he’s pretty easy. Really, so is Mom–we’re on an even keel for the moment, anyway.