Sitting down to erg last Friday for the first time in weeks, was a bit confusing. I am the same person who sat there in March aren’t I? I mean really, a little medical intervention, a few Pilates classes, and a bit of new flab does not a different person make, or does it? Life has gone on in the absence of the steady movement of the sliding seat.
Putting on my gloves and adjusting the monitor, was a bit like coming home. My feet fit where they always had. The whir of the flywheel, the sensation in my strong legs and butt all felt familiar. As the meters ran down I started to have a sense that the pattern of life was recreating itself in the movements. Drive – I thought of all the days of treatment and peeling. Recover – I thought about the changes I have observed in my mom recently. Drive – I assess the changes in my body. Recover – I am a few weeks wiser, with a wisdom that is not always welcomed. The last 800 meters or so are tough, my face begins to burn, but I keep telling myself you got this, no worries, and when you finish you will wash your face and all will be well. And I did, and it was, and the rest of my day I was a girl with a happy secret.
As the days continue, I return to the one place where it feels possible to push back against the uncompromising demands of life. Some days my body feels great but my mind is in turmoil, on other days, my body does not want to “go the distance” but my mind coaxes it, on my favorite days they work together and I am simply along for the ride. No matter slow or fast, the seat moves, and one stroke leads to the next and the next until the meters run out.
Yesterday mom and I went to join my nieces and sister in-law for the afternoon at a water park, in Danvers. As our inner tubes floated by, I spotted mom passively sitting in her wheel chair with a vacant smile directed at nothing in particular. The first time, she did not notice us calling to her. The next go around we were waving to beat the band. When we finally caught her attention she re-animated, and by the next time, she had brightened and looked more like mom. On the final pass-by she was ready, alert, and engaged. I remembered all the times she has watched us from beaches, benches, and chairs.
For a long time I have said it is a bit like my mother is going out to sea. Each wave takes her a little further from the beach and I worry sometimes that she will go out too far and not be able to get back. Then I remember she has always been a strong swimmer, and used to carry me along for the ride on her back.
At times, waves of guilt crash over me, I will never be perfect, I will never do it exactly right, and all my efforts are not enough to save her. The waves are just water and I will not drown as long as I time the holding, releasing, and breathing in, with their crest. For a few moments they carry me, and I laugh with delight. It is a bit of a tightrope walk between not wanting to miss a single minute, even the most mundane, and needing desperately to have moments of space to replenish and restore.
The thing is, it has been a long long road to a place of loving this woman who gave me life with all my heart. Finally, loving the mother I have rather than always wishing she was someone else, and she is leaving by pieces. She will not go easily, as stubborn as ever if not more so she may remain, until her last breath, a glass half empty kind of person, who is still capable of squelching any hope of redemption with disparaging remarks. Yet she remains, one of my greatest treasures.
I push myself to continue to ensvision the world at large by spending this coming weekend with my two best, special young male friends. It is a pleasure to be with them, and it still creates some pretty big challenges at home. At the same time it is also my tie to a future that I must continue to believe exists. This weekend, will become oars. The next time I am with them will create covers for those oars and my scull. One baby step at a time, towards an edge that is fast approaching. Tuesday my sliding seat will be awaiting my return. Until then I place my trust in knowing the tides will continue, breathing us along to where we are meant to be.