Sunday, 26 October 2014

It's a Small, Small World

I had a sad conversation with a friend yesterday, sad because she has reached a level of acceptance that she has fought against for the last few years. Acceptance that she can no longer do the things she used to do, or be the person she once was.

I’ve been coming to that same level of acceptance but it’s still like a kick in the teeth when I come face to face with a specific episode. In that regard we’ve had the same kind of week.

My daughter has to travel north to attend the funeral of her children’s paternal grandfather. He died suddenly at the age of 53. He’s their Poppa, and the kids loved him and will need support to get through the loss. I offered to go with her, to be there for her and to help with the kids.

She chose to go alone. Thanks but no thanks. She wants the flexibility of staying overnight, of giving the kids more family time, of attending the wake and the funeral without hours of travel back and forth. And the kicker, she’ll have enough to worry about without my being there and having to deal with my issues in addition to everything else.

I appreciate her honesty, and applaud that she can say what she needs and doesn’t let herself suffer a situation she could have avoided. It took everything I had to agree and chat, but when I got off the phone I burst into tears. I was a nurse for thirty years, and I’ve been a mother for more years than that, it’s in my nature to help, to try to make things better, to just ‘do’ for others.

Anymore, it’s all I can manage to do for myself.

My friend is eighteen years older than I am, and fiercely independent. She has been a widow for more than twenty years I believe, so she’s used to fending for herself, doing as she pleases. This year has been hard for her, as she’s lost one friend to cancer, and is about to lose another.

This time it’s her cousin, and as much as she wants to be there, spend some final time with her relative, it’s the distance, the effort of going, travelling back and forth from hospice to hotel and then the long drive home, alone. This week she couldn’t face it, couldn’t face anything and has had to accept, finally, that she just can’t do the same things she’s been struggling to do.

In the last two years I’ve tried to accept how small my world has become, what I can and can’t do. Not only has my living space become so much smaller, so has my life beyond these four walls. I hate, and fear, that I will lose this last vestige of my independence. Asking for help has always been difficult for me, and I’m still coming to terms with that.

Funny, but despite the difference in our ages, my friend and I struggle with the same demons. Is it easier for me to accept the changes because I have a disease I can name and blame? Is it harder to accept when it’s old age that is making the mind slow and forgetful, the body weak and wracked with pain?

I don’t know which is worse, the ongoing battle to maintain and constantly having to face and accept failure, or just giving in, to let that world shrink around you without a fight.

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