Past Lives by Robin Gorman Newman
My senior dad had mjaor surgery just two days after our vacation. I went from high to low in the flash of an eye, and on a daily basis since, have felt somewhat consumed with his health, mortality and staying on top of the hospital ...now rehab....situation. I try not to dwell, but it's my nature to seek out some level of control.
My dad is a trooper and came through the surgery (hernia...not laproscopic) with flying colors, but the recovery will be painstaking, as I anticipated. He's 92, and you don't bounce back overnight (no one does from surgery).
I observed his physical therapy session yesterday, and while the exercises weren't overly difficult, lifting a 3lb weight was hard for him. He kept complaining he was tired and weak, even when sitting in a chair. Of course he is, given his age, surgery, and lack of a really good night sleep since the operation. You never sleep all that well in a hospital or rehab facility. There's activity 24/7.
I shared afterwards how I understand that exercise isn't easy (it's not supposed to be), but if he keeps complaining, the physical therapists (concerned about liability), will give him less and less, and he'll be helped less and less. To regain muscle strength, he needs to work them.
He recounts to everyone (whether they want to listen or not) how he played baseball and tennis, as if he's still in the shape he used to be. I said to him that we'd all like to turn back the clock and stay youthful forever, but just because he was fit doesn't mean he is now. If he could think like the athlete he once was, he might forge ahead with a more competitive drive toward healing. He could even sample what it feels like to respond to someone "I'm coming along," when they ask how he's doing, as opposed to being negative.
Does it serve you to complain? I asked. It doesn't make you feel better. If you were to say to someone "I'm doing good...." even though you wish you were still better, you might actually feel a bit better. Attitude goes hand 'n hand with healing. You hear all the time stories about how people aren't expected to live and their sheer will keeps them going. We have the power to control our mindsets.
All this made me very aware of the downside of focusing on what once was.
As midlife mothers caught up in parenting and multi-tasking (a topic I address often), it's easy to think about how our lives used to be.
The jobs we used to have (if you're a stay at home mom).
The fun we used to have with friends (without arranging babysitting).
The spontaneous sex we used to have (not worrying about kids within earshot).
The self care we practiced regularly (without having to juggle scheduling for our kids)
We chose to become mothers and handle all that comes with it (even if it wasn't fully anticipated). Most of us, I imagine, myself included, would not want to turn the clock back pre-motherhood. Maybe for a day or two here and there. But, we love our kids, and, they love us (even if they don't always show it).
So, if you think about it, living in the present is the best place to be, even if it means being age 40 or 50+.
When I take my son to visit my father in rehab, and he holds his hand to walk with him, it reminds me of when I used to hold my son's hand all the time when he was little, and how I imagine my dad held mine when he and my mom rasied me. The tables have turned, and we are now the caretakers for my dad. And, as hard as it is, I'm grateful to see the compassion my son exudes when we go to visit grandpa. He loves to hear the stories of my dad as a star athlete, and for a short while, my father has a gleam in his eye and grin on his face, reminding me of the joy he had in his youth when he earned the nickname Flash Gorman (on the ballfield).