“You can stand anything as long as it is temporary,” my eighty-nine year old mother tells me this morning after I complain about my foot. Mom’s wheelchair bound and on the skilled nursing floor at the Jewish Home, but she’s still able to cut right to the chase.
“I’m going crazy wearing this Velcro surgical shoe. I need to move. To do things.”
“No sh**t,” she laughs. “Tell me about it.”
I dismiss her. It’s all about me, the recovering victim of foot surgery. “This toe / tendon thing. It’s taking forever to heal from the surgery,” I tell her. “Like yesterday, I had all this energy. It was great weather and I cleaned all the outdoor furniture. Washed the covers….”
Mom puts a hand up, the beaded bracelet she’s made in crafts dangles from her wrist. “Stop,” she says, “who the hell cares if your furniture is clean?”
She shakes her head. “What a waste of time.”
“Anyway, my foot got all swollen and I had to ice it for an hour to get the swelling down. Ugh, it’s already been 4 ½ weeks. I’m so done, Mom.”
“The bitch is, you’re like a shark,” she says, “you always need to be moving.”
“I know. I’m just not feeling productive.”
“Productive? You sound like a goddamn machine!”
I laugh. “Seriously, Mom, I’m not out there, busy, doing things. This hanging around with my foot up is not relaxing for me.”
“Like what, that CycleSoul thing? That’s hardly relaxing, all that jinging on the bike.”
“I do miss the working out.”
She rolls her eyes. “Of course, you do… Bor-rring.”
“It’s not just that, Mom, I don’t seem to know how to just be. To sit and enjoy this downtime,” I say, rearranging the jumble of framed photographs on her side table.
“I can see that. Quit with the pictures, will you? They’re fine the way they are.”
“There’s really no way around it,” I sigh, taking a seat on the corner of her bed. “It’s a 6 to 8 week recovery. Nothing I can do but just ride it out.”
Mom listens as I go on.
”I’ve read two self-helps in the past week,” I tell her. “One on meditation and one on how to unplug.”
“No offense,” she says, ”but that sounds pretty methodical. It’s not rocket science, this learning how to be calm.”
I look over at her side table. A stack of tabloids and her favorite magazines, Hello, are fanned out next to a bottle of perfume and a glass of water with a straw.
“Hell, consider yourself lucky,” she adds, picking up her reaching stick. “For, me, its permanent.”
“I know, Mom. I’m sorry to be so insensitive.”
“I’ll get over it,” she laughs.
“So, Mom, what would you suggest I do to relax?”
Without missing a beat, she blurts out: “Drink!”
“That was our childhood in a nutshell.”
- My sister, April’s, response when I read this to her.