Column published November 21, 2016 Something About Nothing
I shredded a life today. Piece by piece I dropped it into the shredder, pushed the button and ground it up.
This has been a topsy-turvy month that has swung from the uncertainty of the presidential election to honoring our veterans, to being thankful for all we have with the celebration of Thanksgiving.
This is the month friends and family are posting 30 days of thanks on Facebook, and I intended to do that, too. I have been hit and miss, not because I have not been thankful, but I found disorganization and weariness stopping me from taking the time to post. And so, I took some time to get rid of the past that is weighing me down.
As I was shredding the life, I realized that many of the details going into my shredder were not happy things and reminded me of a time when life was anxious and sad and filled with anger and hopelessness. The papers I was shredding were the papers documenting the doctor bills, nursing home bills and details of my mother’s last four years of life.
My mother died 13 years ago. Why I still had those papers might be a mystery to many people, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the final details that documented the last years of her life until now.
With her dementia she turned against me when I tried to help her. Always an independent woman, she didn’t want my help and didn’t think she needed it. She took care of her mother for many years and she always vowed she would not be dependent on me, her only child. Because of her stubbornness in wanting to be independent it made things harder.
Before dementia set in she set things up so that if anything happened to her I could legally take care of her, her property and her finances. When she developed dementia her mind told her different things, and I became the enemy. Because of this and outsiders interference I took everything to the courts so things would be documented and no one could accuse me of doing anything illegal. It was a stressful and hard time for both of us and our family.
As I shredded these court papers, I let go of the hurt and was thankful we did things that way so she would be taken care of and protected.
While in the nursing home, she broke her arm and also her hip. As I shredded the doctor bills, I noted how inexpensive things were 13 years ago compared to what the surgeries and doctor bills would cost now. Of course at the time we thought they were high, but compared to today they were nothing. I was thankful she had insurance to pay those bills.
As I shredded the nursing home bills, I remembered the wonderful people who understood her dementia and took care of her, along with caring for my emotional state. I was thankful for the doctors and nurses that found a medication to calm her mood and give me back a funny, caring mom. I never knew the sense of humor she now had. Life had changed her from when she was young. I was also thankful for an almost death moment during those years that brought about a talk of her hopes and dreams and her letting me know I would be fine without her but she would be watching over me. Her dementia diminished for a few days after the hip surgery, and we had normal days. I was thankful God gave us that time of healing.
As I was shredding, I knew the moments, good and bad, made up my life for a short time. During that period of time, it was hard to remember the good, but I could see it and feel it now, sitting right there intermingled with the bad. The blessings were there and now I could see them and feel them.
I loved my mom. My mom loved me. If I could go back, I would say many things that I never said. I would say that I now understand what you were feeling. I now understand why we fought so much. You loved me, and as a child and teenager you wanted me to have a better life. You wanted me to be safe. I wanted you to let go. I wanted to fly away and felt you were keeping me back. You were an older mom, and it felt like we were worlds apart.
I would tell her I was sorry I wasn’t always a good daughter. I could have done things differently, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would. I would be kinder and more understanding. Had she lived longer and I had been older with more life behind me I would have known that.
As the papers hit the shredder, the feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger went into the shredder too. There was much to be thankful for in those last years of her life, and I could see it now. Had we not went through the fire we might not have gotten to the other side where the last year was one of understanding and laughter.
Through it all, the love was always there, and that is why we kept fighting to get through the muck to the other side, unaware that is what we were doing.
It is Thanksgiving week. Being thankful does not always mean giving thanks for the good times. It also means being thankful in the fire of despair. It is the glimmer of thanks peeking through that makes up our lives and keeps us living.