Is life worth living if you can’t eat?

My mom loves to eat.  It’s what keeps her going.  She has her favorites – onions, mushrooms, nuts, lox and bagels, and pretty much anything that’s spicy.  Most of her day is spent sleeping, chewing and pooping.  It can take her hours to finish a meal.  What we take for granted – chewing and swallowing – no longer come easily to her.  By the time she finishes breakfast, we’re starting to get ready for dinner.

The doctors are now recommending that my mom be fed through a feeding tube.  The Parkinson’s has taken the use of the muscle that distinguishes when food is going down the wrong pipe.  A healthy person has a flap that helps prevent food from going down to our lungs.  My mom has loss use of that flap, so food is going into her lungs, causing her to cough and to draw liquids and solids into her respiratory tract.

My dad is sad, mad, frustrated, scared, “We need to get a second opinion!…Who are these doctors anyway!  They don’t know what they’re doing!”

He can’t stand the thought of mommy regressing. Of course the thought of taking away one of her main reasons for living – the joy of eating – is devastating.

Exhausted from the tests, and the lack of proper levels of oxygen, my mom slept a good part of the day, which gave me time to listen with compassion to my father’s negative thoughts, and to contemplate how I would break the news to my mom when she was ready.  If I were my mom I would probably just choose to keep chewing and run the risk of choking and an infection of my lungs.  I mean who wants to keep living with tubes?  But she deserves to hear the news, to sit with it, and to think about what works for her.  The reality is no one can speak for another, and circumstances change – until you’re actually there, one can’t really say what one would want.  We think we know, but we don’t.

She had told me years ago, when she still could talk, that she never wants to be fed through a tube.   But times change, and then she didn’t have a great grand baby boy coming to visit from NYC, and a granddaughter who has the most contagious giggle visiting from alaska, and a grandson who hits home runs and pitches no run games, and another grandson who can sink a 20 ft. putt.

I sat there watching her sleep with the oxygen tubes up her nose, and listened to the beep of the heart monitor.  I held my dad’s hand and listened to the silence of his emotional pain and let the tears flow down my face.

 

the highs and lows and everything in between

How is it that I can be in total bliss with Odin, while knowing that my mom is in the hospital?  Yesterday, my mom had to head to the hospital again, this time her oxygen level had gone way below acceptable, and when they did tests they found that she was having trouble breathing and had food in her lungs.

It’s the practice of living in the moment, combined with the practice of self love that allows me to not only have a life of my own, but a life that is filled with joy and purpose.

My dad called me and I could actually hear a voice of acceptance.  Instead of anger that I wasn’t there to help, he knew I was with Odin, and he was actually quite calm. I made the calls to my siblings, and then I let go of trying to fix her, and him, and I had to trust that all was well and that I would continue to love my time with Odin, and not jump on the first plane back to be there for my parents.  I could still be a respectable, loving daughter, enjoying a life of her own and send my love through my words and compassionate listening.

I took Odin to the zoo as planned.  We had the most adventurous day, stopping in the metro to listen to a horn player, a saxophonist and to watch a puppeteer, and then carefully dropping coins in their buckets in appreciation for their gifts.  I loved seeing the awe and curiosity in Odin’s face as he took in his surroundings.

The Central Park Zoo is crazy special.  It’s just the right size, filled with beautiful trees and winding walkways.  Of course there just wasn’t enough day to complete the zoo, but our time together will always be with us.  Sitting under a tree and having a meal of roasted tomatoes and spears of squash, and laughing when the birds came to visit….life is so wondrous and beautiful!

 

Relax, enjoy, rejoice

I just completed four glorious days of golf!  The weather could not have been more ideal, and the two golf courses could not have been more beautiful and perfectly groomed.  When I was invited to participate in the tournament, my immediate response was “no way, I’m not good enough.”

How many times have I turned opportunities down because I’ve convinced myself that I’m just not good enough?  When I stopped and pushed the pause button, I realized that I could choose a different reaction.  I could choose to say ‘yes”, to focus on the fun of the experience, and to see it as a learning opportunity.

I’m so glad I’ve learned to seize the moment, to stop listening to my ego who loves to tell me I’m not good enough, and instead to listen to my heart, who believes in me and wants me to live a joyful life.

I got to see old friends, eat yummy food, and be back in nature with the green rolling hills and magnificent trees, playing my most favorite game in the world.  The first day was the toughest because I hadn’t played in a tournament before.  The pressure of people watching me, and the fear that I would mess up, led me to do just that.  I couldn’t hit the ball and I’m sure my partner was wondering why he ever thought to invite me to play.

But then he said, “it’s not about the other people.  It’s about you.  Just enjoy what you’re doing, and see every stroke as an opportunity to improve.”  And after that I stopped hearing the mantra, “I golf like crap!”  I reset my day and I began hearing, “I can have fun learning and I don’t care what other people think of me.”  And slowly my game improved.  Instead of comparing myself to the other players, I found myself enjoying the setting and hoping but not demanding, that I would be able to contribute to our team in some small way.

On the last hole of the last day,  the miracle happened.  I put the ball onto the green off the tee, four feet from the hole.  It was on this hole that I was able to contribute to our team’s total – half of a point, to be exact.  And it was this half a point that put us ahead of the third place team, and we ended finishing second in our flight.  It was such a nice end to an amazing four days of golf!

 

 

 

Taking time to connect can make an ok day into a fun one

Today I took a Lyft to my destination. The young driver’s name was Alex. He was from Brazil. He was a friendly guy who liked to talk. He’d only been in the states one year, yet his English was quite good. He told me that the reason he was driving Lyft was so he could practice his English and make money at the same time. Given how much he was able to get out in the 30 minutes I had with him, I would say that he gets plenty of practice with his daily driving.  As I sat there listening, I thought, wow, what a great way to learn a new language.  Head to Italy, drive a Lyft in a non-touristy part of the country  and learn Italian while meeting native speakers.

Turns out Alex was an ex-Navy Seal for the Brazilian Army, which would explain his strength and size. He owns a golden retriever puppy who is ‘impossible and crazy’ and has chewed threw three cell phones.  We laughed and shared dog stories.  He carried my golf clubs and two bags like he was lifting a tiny bag of groceries.  And he offered to take them up the stairs.  His kindness and enthusiasm reminded me that we are all capable of connecting with others in a meaningful way.  So often we take people in the service industry and treat them with little regard, as if they aren’t worthy of our attention, and sometimes as if they aren’t even human.

I’ll see people on their phones, so preoccupied with their conversations or a game or an email that they don’t have time to even look a service person in the eye, and exchange actual words, instead pointing and directing with their fingers or eyebrows.  Clearly, Alex was a person, and his idea of making human contact was beautiful. He shared his story, asked about mine, and then proceeded to offer to help in ways that were beyond my expectations.  He was such a refreshing part of my day as he reminded me that we’re all the same, worthy of a smile and concern, and if we take the time to connect and care about each other, we can make a difference in each other’s lives.

o the joys of a little pampering

We’re celebrating my mom’s 85th birthday early since I’ll be out of town for the real day. I decided to treat her to a day of pampering and took her to have her hair deep conditioned, dyed and styled.  Anthony was her hair dresser.

He was a young man, with a bleached blonde curly crown, and close cut dark hair around his ears.  He wore dark black jeans, and pointy black dress shoes.  He had the look of a smart dresser who had put some thought into what he was going to wear for the day – the kind of guy who looks in the mirror before he walks out the door. He carefully moved the hairdresser’s chair away so we could keep mommy comfortably seated in her wheelchair.  He smiled and gently ran his fingers through her thinning hair.

Mommy couldn’t talk and could barely move her head when she was having it washed and conditioned, but you could tell she was happy.  Having someone touch you on the head and massage your scalp is one of the most relaxing and glorious feelings.

When Anthony finished, Mommy looked so happy.  It’s hard for her to smile, but she does so with her eyes and a little wave of her hand.  Anthony and I exchanged hugs, and I told him we’d be back.

I think we’ll do this little adventure regularly just so she has something to look forward to.  It’s the little things in life that can make such a difference in one’s day!

 

 

Loving myself first gives me the foundation to have healthier relationships

“i didn’t leave because i stopped loving you i left cause the longer i stayed the less i loved myself.”  – rupi kaur

I can be present for my parents, but I can also have a life of my own.  It’s easy for me to prioritize them over my needs, so I have to stay aware of my needs at all times.

I ask myself “Am I living my most abundant life?”

I listen to the things in my life that make my heart sing.  When I’m in town I do try and spend time with my parents so it may seem like I’m overly devoted to them, but this only happens when I’ve been away and I feel a strong pull to be there with them.

Being there for them out of guilt and a desire to please is very different from wanting to spend time with them.  I’m learning so much about their stories, and the love they have for each other.  I love seeing my mom’s eyes open wide when I read to her.  And I love giving them and all their sweet friends the attention and hugs that they miss so very much.

Honestly I think my father is starting to understand that I have a life, and that I can’t be there all the time, that I love them when I’m away as much as I love them when I’m there.

When he gets demanding or unpleasant I can set my boundary, and know that when I leave, I’m not being evil.  I’m simply taking care of myself.

 

 

Heart to heart

“when you come from the heart, you reach the hearts of others.”

I heard this the other night as Travis Smiley introduced Tony Bennett at the Hollywood Bowl.  What a magical night it was, sitting there under the stars with my dear friend Laura who had invited me to spend the evening with her.  She and I are good at exchanging voicemails and text messages, as she and I face the challenges and wonders of life – she a single mom, juggling the demands of providing for her two young boys, and I, a daughter trying her best to be there for her ailing mom and fearful dad.  When she asked me to join her, there was no hesitation in saying ‘yes!’  I couldn’t wait to see her and give her a hug.

I knew the evening would be good for my soul.

We talked and talked, listened and listened, and caught up on all that has been happening in our busy lives.  The love was abundant and as we listened to this 91-year old legend share from his heart, every single one of our hearts was touched.  I sat there soaked in gratitude.  Just as I was feeling that there just could not be a more wonderful experience of joy and abundance, Lady Gaga sauntered on stage. The screams of surprise and glee, and the energy between these two artists who so adore and admire each other, was overwhelming and beautiful.

My tears flowed as we bathed in the pure sounds of love.

It was such a blissful night to remember.