You may notice that I hardly ever discuss my mother here and there are a myriad of reasons for that and one of them is that I just hardly ever see her despite the fact that she only lives about fifteen miles away.
I will sum up the reasons with this: I am a bad daughter.
It's true. I am.
Just ask my brother.
Anyway, Mother called me yesterday. I had Owen and was chasing him around the house, trying to change a poopy diaper and if he isn't in the mood to get a diaper changed, you have to do all your tricks to cajole him into it and that's almost impossible to do if you're on the phone.
But we did talk for awhile, me running from room to room saying, "No, Owen, you cannot have that." "Get down, honey, you can't get up there." "Here baby boy, you want some apple?" and so forth.
"Do you have him every day?" asked my mother.
"Oh no, no," I said. "Some weeks I don't get him enough and I have to go see him."
And this is true.
Mother's been having problems with her knees. She's in a lot of pain. And she's determined to get knee replacements. At the age of 83. And I don't blame her. If they can fix the problem, let's do it. Of course, the problem isn't the surgery, it's the recovery period.
She hinted around about this.
"I know you have so much to do," she said and boy, is she right but the guilt ceiling lowered over me and threatened to smash me, the way it will.
I don't know what I'd do or how I'd do it if she needs me to help her through recovery. First off, we don't even go to LUNCH together.
For a myriad of reasons. (I am the world's worst daughter.)
Secondly- this old house is so not set up for someone who has problems walking. There are uneven floors which tilt and tip and there are thresholds at each of the many, many doorways that our feet just pass over unconsciously but for an older person, just learning to walk on a new knee, they would present a problem, each and every one.
What to do? How to do it?
And then last night at rehearsal, Jack said, "We have six weeks of rehearsal left and we want everyone to make this their priority. It has to be."
And we all nodded gravely and agreed it would be and there you go.
Another priority and I already knew it. I'm not a real actor but I do know that when you get a part in a play, you gotta show up for all the rehearsals, you have to know your lines, you have to get your costumes together (this IS community theater) and that is just THAT. No fucking around. They sell tickets and there are five other women in this play for whom any irresponsibility on my part would be completely unfair.
As I nodded, I kept hearing the words, knee replacement, in my head. Mother, I kept thinking.
What to do? How to do it?
Every time I think about the situation, my head and heart trip like she would on these thresholds, and how do I leave the room, the life I'm living and enter the one she may need me to lead in her aid?
I don't know. But that's what I'm thinking about this early morning as I drink my coffee and wait for Owen to show up.
I really don't know. And I don't know how anyone does that- take care of elderly parents while trying to live a life and yes, I know that she set aside so much to raise me but isn't that what we all do? She raised her children, I raised mine and now I am helping with my grandson and that is the joy of my life and important to the life of my daughter and her husband.
And what will I do when I need help because almost certainly I will?
The guilt ceiling descends a few inches farther when I think of that. Ask my children for that sort of help?
Well. No answers here today. And I don't even know what a knee replacement rehab would be like for an eighty-three year old.
Time to let the chickens out. Time to get on with this full day of mine. I will shove these thoughts to the back of the closet and put up my steel umbrella to keep that guilt ceiling's lead weight off my chest, my back, my neck, knowing that a knee replacement or two (she needs two) is just part of it, there is going to be so much more, that this is what it means to be part of a family, fighting myself with every step I take in this thought-direction, tripping not-so-merrily over the thresholds, my own old knees grumbling and complaining but still strong enough to carry me through these days.