...with love all things are possible

Believe ...

Believe ...

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye, 2014

We visit Mum as soon as I arrive (Jack and I) – that is the purpose of my trip; to see as much of Mum as I can.  Somehow I feel it’s her last Christmas… she’s gone downhill so fast since I was here in September.
“We're pleased,” says Angela, as we walk in.  “She’s decided to feed herself again.”
“Mummy! I’ve missed you,” I hug her and snuggle close to kiss her cheek, the months apart melting away.
“Oh, my girlie, I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispers, still half asleep even though it’s ten in the morning.
“Hello, Mum,” Jack kisses her as well.
“Oh, my girlie, I’m so glad you’re here.”
I pull a little stool closer just as Janet trips and falls.  It happens so fast that I can’t even put out my hand to break her fall.  Guilt pours over me like an icy cloak.
People come running, cushions appear, phones materialize alongside privacy screens, all couched in words of care and concern.  Janet seems OK but they opt to leave her on the floor until the ambulance arrives.
Mum leans over, alert now, as are most of the residents.  But none of them move from their armchairs.  Jackie and I try to continue a conversation with Mum, but the excitement of the prostrate body far more interesting to her than the struggle of piecing together who we are and how we fit into this puzzle that’s her life.
When nothing further happens, Mum nods off again, but wakes to the commotion of the incoming paramedics.  He is tall, dark, and handsome; and his assistant short, white, and sweet.
Unabashedly, Mum stares at him, checking him up and down, “Ooooo, hello there, where did you come from?” she coos.  Jack and I burst out laughing. 
“Do you want some lipstick, Mum,” Jack asks.  (Old family joke.)
Mum is clearly mesmerized by this man and her eyes dart left and right.  “Now, what can I fall over, eh?” she mutters but soon falls asleep again, hatching her plan.
It seems a sensible moment to leave.

Next day, I come back with Dave and Jess and it’s a good day today.  Mum's sitting up, awake and alert in the dining room.  The pale winter sun streams in through the tall windows and plays hide and seek on the furniture.
Mum is smiling and making conversation.  Warm hands, brushed hair, she reaches out to touch each one of us.  David takes pictures and everything’s almost normal until Mum clutches her head, her face tightening into a frown, “It’s zizzling … zuzz …”  she whimpers, “in here,” pressing her temples.
I massage them, round and round, whispering words of endearment as I do, yet feeling totally inadequate.  What is it?  What’s going on?
Mum seems to feel soothed and shuts her eyes with a sigh and falls asleep.  Her face and hands have turned icy, so I wrap her in my soft two-tone shawl, knowing I won’t see it again, but glad at some silly level, that it matches her outfit. 
Did something happen?

The next day I return:

“Yes, she’s in there,” they say
And they point your way.
“Over there,” they wave to the room
Of two-dozen, great comfy chairs.
But you were sat in a chair
In a different place,
Not the tall Alice in Wonderland
Chair by the window,
Nor the squat plush one beside Pam,
Nor the one you were in yesterday,
And I can’t see you, Mum
I can’t see you. I miss you.

They say, “Mum’s right there, love,”
But I miss you,
I miss you.  I miss you.

Then, at last, I discover you,
Sleeping, shriveled and bent.
My eyes, my heart, and memory ache.
But with a deep breath I’m collected,
I must be collected, for I miss you,
And I can hardly bear that
I’ve missed you here too.

Your eyes flutter open,
When at last I caress the back of your hand.
It’s so chilled and still from sleep.
“Hello, Mumsie, darling,” I whisper,
Stroking your cheek now,
Holding your face in my hands.
“I’ve missed you.” I say.
“I’ve missed you.” You repeat,
but the words sound more like
“Bligh-ve mushh ooo.”
Your voice has dropped about two octaves,
since yesterday – just yesterday, the good day –
And no further coherent words emerge,
Though plenty are spoken.

I’ve waited thousands of minutes
To see you again, just to be with you
Again, and to hug you
Because I miss you,
And you miss me, here too, today.
Because all the while I stay, you sleep,
And sleep, and sleep.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The DragonWagon's Mum - Part 6

Christmas 2014

Tanya picked me up at the airport in Philly, when I flew in from London, heavy-hearted from a visit with my Mum in her last stages of Alzheimer's.  The swings and roundabouts of my emotional roller-coaster buffet me and I’ve realized it’s sometimes hard to keep an even keel.  I was so excited to see my daughter and her two boys, as well as the added bonus of having Christian come up for Christmas, that it felt disloyal to put away my leaden feelings.  I hope my children can forgive me if I sometimes snapped, if I sometimes wasn't quite myself this Christmas.

The DragonWagon had been squeezed into the Papi’s Mazda and had made the trip up to Philly with Papi and Christian, in case the DragonMaster changed his mind about where the journey might take him next. 

There may not have been flurries of snow in Philadelphia this year, but there were plenty of photo-flurries, laughter-gales, and game-storms at Tanya’s house, as the magic of Christmas touched us all.  As with so many precious moments, it was over all too quickly and suddenly it was time to pack up and leave.

Christian had decided to return to Ocala, to the same place he’d finished up at, so the already stuffed car somehow morphed to make room for one more passenger and a slew of Christmas presents.  The drive was tortuous down I-95 with traffic backups for miles and miles outside major cities and hubs, and 12 hours after leaving Philly we gratefully pulled into the Kerns’ beautiful lake-house in South Carolina, where Suzie and Scott spoiled us with all sorts of culinary delights, stories, and gorgeous beds to sleep in.

Another 12 hours driving south, finally brought us to Ocala, where after a quick supper of wings and celery (all other places closed that late on a Sunday night) we drove the DragonMaster to the designated spot.  My heart stopped.  We were in the gloomy half-light of a deserted parking lot behind a Winn Dixie.

As we pulled in, Christian pointed to the thick woods behind, “In there, Mum, that’s where I was.  That’s where I’ll sleep tonight too.”  I swallowed hard.  Wow.  This is what he really does. I hadn’t realized how truly disconnected I’d been, romanticizing this trip in my head and through his blogs.  Now I was in the middle of it, albeit momentarily, and I couldn't stop my heart from lurching.  Stoppit already!  Get a grip.

I’ve learned that when you love someone unconditionally, you have to let them go.  You have to willingly open up both hands with your palms upwards and allow them to fly away. You can’t make anyone stay and love you.  Shoot.  That doesn’t make it any easier.  Watching all his bits and pieces come out of the car was a sobering moment. Here was Christian’s whole life, a little jumbled pile of bags and parcels on the floor of the parking lot.

I looked at each bit as he packed, selected, repacked, sorted and organized…this is how he was living...I should have offered to wash his clothes.  I had been so proud of my Christmas presents to him, but looking at them now in the dismal, cold, night-light, I realize they might only ward off a little of the powerful elements: a thick orange and black rubber jacket to help with rain and cold; I should have sewn on some high-visilbility strips and got trousers to go with it; a jumbo Ziploc bag to keep at least one set of clothes dry; will it really work? a set of little bungee-cords to secure stuff with.  Darn I should have, I should have … I’m second guessing myself at every turn.

We’re intruding.  I feel it.  Papi and I had nothing to contribute to his packing and I sensed that Christian was trying to hurry so we could get away.
“We should leave,” I muttered, shivering in the damp chill.
“No, let’s wait until he’s finished.” Papi said, circling the DragonWagon.
Christian nodded, “I’d feel better knowing that you guys are on your way, you still have another 3-hour drive to get home.”
Papi wasn't convinced. I didn’t want to leave either, but it was the right thing to do.

We all hugged and smiled, Papi making a feeble joke which we tried to laugh at, but which was quickly forgotten and then we were in the car and driving off. 

I cry, but not much because Papi's reminding me that Christian’s doing what he wants to do.  Not much because he doesn’t do tears and needs to fix them right away.  So I pull my tears inside and put them in that place where I keep my tears for Tany and her boys in Philly; with my tears for Mum in England; with the tears for living so far from my beloved siblings. 

Life is good. I breathe deeply and consciously release my love and allow everything and everyone to be just where they choose to be.  I say a prayer that I will have the peace to accept that I am headed exactly where I need to be and it comes.  That peace that passes all understanding returns, and balance is restored.

Thus the DragonWagon walks on and the adventure continues.  Today, 24-hours after dropping Christian off, as I finish watching 7 Years in Tibet, I can’t help feeling that that whole movie was written for me, right now. So I dedicate this to you tonight, wherever you are, whenever you read this, with love.

May all travelers find happiness wherever they go,
Without any effort, may they accomplish whatever they set out to do;
And having safely returned to the shore,
May they be joyfully reunited with their relatives.

Dalai Lama, 7 Years in Tibet

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The DragonWagon’s Mum - Part 5

Days 7 - 12

Why did I stop writing?  There was a moment when I was confident that Christian and I were in this project together, linked by the magic of Christian’s trip and our connection as free spirits.  As his journey progressed, I read his blogs with relish (and continue to do so,) and somehow I felt my own heart change.  This was NOT my journey, this was not my experience, this was NOT about Cath being in the limelight.  So I stopped writing my part.

I stopped writing and it hurt.  It hurt me, deep down inside and as I've scrabbled around in there over these past few weeks trying to understand what really made me stop he wrote his again.  What was wrong with me?  Jealousy?  Fear?  Sloth?  I can't really say I know, still, and perhaps it'll come out at the end of this piece.  But after reading Christian's new blog today on a grey day in chilly England just after the Winter Solstice ... there was something about the shortest day, the lack of sunlight and the miles between us, that kicked me into gear again.

The DragonWagon was headed from Orlando to Ocala, going east at first (which seemed counterintuitive to me) and then north after staying in Deland.  There's a method to the DragonWagon master's plan (or lack thereof) as he was meeting and old friend there first.  Excellent plan.  However, this morning when I read about his stay at Scott's house, I wept.  These lovely people opening their beautiful home to my son, somehow made him feel inadequate... This is where the adventure gets difficult for me as a mother.  I want to be there on his shoulder, whispering "It's OK.  They're fine with your being here.  Don't say no to the washing machine."  But it turned out right in the end.  If he hadn't left, he wouldn't have found the next angels on the road and he wouldn't have given Scott the chance to chase him with stick and chocolate!

That also made me realize my purpose on his journey.  It's about me learning to let go, it's about me not feeling pulled to "fix" everything every time.  That wonderful phrase I learned a few years ago after my daughter got married, keeps popping back into my head: "You're no longer a manager, you are now a consultant."  Hah.  So true.  Yeah, true but not easy, right?  We are invited into our children's lives and, if we're lucky, we're asked for an opinion or a consultation on occasion.  But my on-the-job-mother-training of 32 years, makes me want to jump in and fix.

It's also a wonderful test of faith for me.  Learning to let go, learning to really trust "everything in God's world happens for a reason."  I knew that north of Deland loomed the extensive Ocala National Forest, home to the Florida Black Bear.  So, here I was, cheerfully telling people that Christian was "somewhere" in the forest (no idea where,) probably having sighted a number of black bears.  Had he seen any? Did he know about this?  Yep, turns out he did.  The road signs also helped.  He was going to traverse it at its widest point, along SR 40.

Worry, I'm told, is like a rocking chair: a lot of movement which gets you nowhere.  So true.  So every day, I woke up with renewed conviction that I'd not make up terrible stories in my head about "lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh My!"  (Thank you Dorothy!)  I'm getting better at it :)

Nothing could make me prouder than to talk to people about what Christian is doing.  His conviction to stay true to his journey is amazing.  He could have stopped on day 1 or day 10 and I would still have been equally proud.  Dropping out of society like that, in this day and age where we're so interconnected and interdependent, thanks (tongue-in-cheek) to technology, is not easy.  Everyone talks about social media, instant responses, and credit scores; about goals and plans, end results and exit strategies.  Christian, however, has defied every single one of those conventions.  He has no planno time limit on anything, no exact destination, and I admire him for that.  I truly do.

Maybe, just maybe, this is part of my purpose, to write about it from the outside.  To remind the curious and the new followers, that Christian's plan is no plan  Lots of dreams, lots of thoughts and plenty of improv are running through his mind, a mind which is nothing like yours nor mine.  

When he was a little boy, maybe about seven years old, Christian drew this extraordinary design for a catapult, right out of his head at the airport as we waited for our flight back to Uruguay from England.  When he showed me the drawing, I was astounded at the detail and even more so when he flipped to the next two pages where he'd drawn each piece (nuts, bolts, screws etc) and labeled how many of each would be required, then on the third page, precise instructions of how to assemble the catapult.  
"How on earth did you do this, Christian?" I asked, my jaw in my lap.
With an impish grin, he tapped his temple, "It's my double-brain, Mummy, just my double brain."
Double-brain is right.  Where you turn right, he turns left.  Where you take the safe road, he always takes the less traveled path.  Teachers at his schools were perplexed by this boy who would never give the simple answer, but instead, always, select a (correct) answer so far outside the box that it rattled everyone.  

Yeah, the box.  Most people on earth live inside the safety of "the box."  Some people live with the roof of the box open to let in a bit of the outside, and a few actually venture outside the box.  A handful of people live completely outside the box, some venturing far and wide, but keeping the box in sight.  But Christian?
Christian looks quizzically at me, "There's a box?"
This is where you get to smile, because when you wrap your head around that, you begin to get a glimpse inside his world and maybe, just maybe, an idea of why he's doing what he's doing.

Yes, it's an amazing journey and I am privileged to be his ambassador on the ground.  For the moment all I know is that we've convinced him to exchange the warmth of his tent in the forest, to spend Christmas with us in freezing Philadelphia (where his sister Tany lives with her boys) and he's agreed.  We're so thrilled.

So Merry Christmas everyone, we'll return him to the forest in time for the New Year and a brand new adventure.  Until then, thank you to all angels on the road, each and every one of you; thank you to those who have commissioned work (that is what keeps him fed); to those who read his blog and cheer him on (that is what fuels his joy;) and to all the rest of you who are waiting to continue this journey, albeit vicariously, may God bless you and keep you safe tonight and always.