Saturday 29 August 2015

Caregiving Has Its Own Time Zone

My Mom’s apartment has its own unique time zone.  At her place, minutes tick by but after four or five hours, I realise that we haven’t accomplished very much at all.  We’ve talked about going out, but we haven’t (Mom doesn’t have ‘the poop’ to get dressed).   Instead, we’ve skyped grandchildren, looked for a missing pair of scissors,  I’ve run out for a few groceries and later together, maybe labeled a few old photos.  Suddenly, it’s time to leave.  Where has the time gone?

A couple of days ago, I was listening to the radio and a colour blind artist was talking about the senses.  He suggested that we have many more senses than just the obvious ones of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.  He talked about the sense of time and of space, for example.  I began to wonder about caregiving and how adjusting to an altered sense of time and space is one of our greatest challenges.  Living slowly challenges our assumptions of productivity in our ‘hurry up and get it done’ world.  We struggle to assign worth and value to the slow time we spend with our loved ones who are elderly or have disabilities.   Inevitably, on leaving my Mom’s place, I apologise for not getting more tasks accomplished.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make that apple crisp I promised”, I say.  Mom shakes her head and thanks me for my visit.  “I just wanted to see you and talk!” she scolds, smiling.

I guess it’s true that what goes around, comes around.  Time zones for young children and elder loved ones are remarkably similar.  Here’s a poem that I recall buoying my spirits when my babies were small:

What Did I Do Today
(Poems for Mothers)
Today I left some dishes dirty,
the bed got made around 3:30.
The diapers soaked a little longer,
The odor grew a little stronger.
The crumbs I spilled the day before
Are staring at me from the floor.
the fingerprints there on the wall
Will likely be there still next fall.
The dirty streaks on those window panes
Will still be there next time it rains.
Shame on you, you sit and say,
Just what did you do today?
I held a baby till she slept
I held a toddler while he wept.
I played a game of hide and seek,
I squeezed a toy so it would squeak.
I pulled a wagon, sang a song,
Taught a child right from wrong.
What did I do this whole day through?
Not much that shows, I guess that's true.
Unless you think that what I've done,
might be important to someone
with deep green eyes and soft brown hair,
If that is true....I've done my share.
~ Author Unknown ~

I've decided not apologise to Mom anymore about tasks not not done.  I'm going to try to relax into her time and space.   It’s lovely there and besides, I can always hurry up another day in another space. 

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