Sorry my blogging has been less than prolific in recent
months. Since my mother’s second stroke
late last October, my responsibilities as dutiful daughter have increased
manifold and my creative juices have not flowed.
After her second stroke last autumn, Mom had a hellish stay
in rehab punctuated by daily calls to me begging me to intervene to get the
aides and nurses to respond to her often-urgent needs. She emerged from that stint in rehab more
traumatized than when she went in. The
benefits of the speech and physical and occupational therapy she was receiving
were diminished by how rattled she was multiple times a day fighting for
attention and her dignity while trying to meet needs as simple as going to the
She also emerged a changed woman, still competent but
sometimes struggling to find the words to express herself and sometimes
confused in that effort and in absorbing information. She had two falls this spring, one on the scooter that is her
lifeline as she no longer can walk. Mom
has been to the emergency room more than four times in the past six months for
various problems—once for a third small stroke. It seemed like every week I could count on a call from her alarm
monitoring service telling me they’d dispatched paramedics.
Twice in the ER they found she had urinary tract
infections. I found out that in the
elderly, UTIs can cause confusion or a delirium-like state (that can be
mistaken for Alzheimer’s or dementia) and agitation and that certainly was the
case with my mom. This has confused
efforts to understand what her current baseline state of mind is, though she’s
definitely improved since her last infection.
I used to call my mom once every two days, then every day,
but now because of her heightened agitation she calls me sometimes several
times a day and I have to talk her down from whatever whammy life has thrown at
her: like the transit van not returning her keys when she came home from the
hospital last time and then apparently losing them, like having to deal with a repair phone call to and visit from Comcast, like her shower aide not being able to come, like a doctor trying to explain to her how he is going to change her
medication. Between this and the midnight calls from the alarm monitoring
service it’s gotten so I go into fight or flight mode every time the phone
rings, my stomach clenching and the adrenaline pumping.
One nice thing that’s come out of this is increased
communications between my brother, who lives in New England, and I. He has really stepped up this year, taking
over some of my mom’s doctor’s communications and calling my mom every day.
He’s making spreadsheets like crazy to try and get a handle on her care.
For now, Mom is able to live independently. She can still manage her medications, attend
to her personal needs, prepare meals for herself and so on. She still scoots over to the shopping plaza
near her to get her hair cut or to go to her favorite market. She still goes downstairs in her building to
chat with neighbors. I admire her
courage and her spirit. And I pray for
my own as I help her navigate this journey through aging through which I will
follow in the coming decades.
I belong to a spiritual friends group, and at our last
meeting one of our members posed the question, “How do we develop spiritual
practices to deal with all the hate coming from the Trump administration?”
One thing is that while it’s important to stay informed and
be part of forums for discussion on current events, it’s also important not to
drown in the barrage of bad news, so put some realistic limits on your
exposure. I know I’ve had to take
myself off social media some days as I sank into despair in the constant news of yet another
outrage from our new administration and righteous anger from my Facebook
Our group talked about how meditation worked for some people
as a coping practice, but not all of us.
For some, meditative practices take the form of yoga or playing the
piano, for example, or spiritual reading.
We agreed that as part of our spiritual practice we needed
to somehow push back, to feel we were making a difference. Sometimes this will
mean taking to the streets again in protest, as some of our members did for the
recent Women’s March. But small but
insistent incursions on our communities’ woes, like volunteering for a good
not solving all the country’s problems, do carve out a sphere of good in a sea
Another way to push back is by donating to a cause that
benefits one targeted by Trump, like the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT
advocacy and Planned Parenthood for women’s rights. Even a small donation can
make a difference when it’s multiplied by many people.
Perhaps most important of all is the purest way to deal with
hate, and that is with love. All of us
in the group knew intellectually that this was right, but in all our imperfect,
Buddhist-learning good intentionedness would find it challenging to put into
practice. So we will put our love out
there maybe not for the source of the hate, but for those under fire from it.
The trick is to be able to cultivate hope in the midst
of an environment that can so easily create hopelessness, not only for those
directly affected by new executive orders, for example, but also for all of us who
worry for the present and future of our country and our world. Me, remembering the admonition that there
are no atheists in foxholes, I’ve added prayer to my arsenal of spiritual