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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Keeping Life in Perspective

Today, on a morning radio show in mid-Missouri, a DJ was talking about being too busy to bother answering a survey about racism in America. "Folks are on their way to work, they don't have time to try to convince people they aren't racist...if you're not racist, you shouldn't have to prove to everyone it's true. People are busy, they're trying to get to work, to drop the kids off, to deal with life...they may not have time to answer some silly survey." Listening, I was first angered by his glib disregard for the role activism has and can play a role in this country. No one is ever too busy to be an instrument for change.

Then I was at work, listening to two professors discuss politics, each on opposing sides of today's wide divide. "No matter what middle America says or does, it doesn't matter," one of them said. "Big business and the top 1% control it all. Our votes don't count." Both men nodded, agreeing on this point. I wanted to shout, "Wow, as white men, your vote has always's women, minorities, the oppressed who've known what it's like to not have our vote count, shame on you!" I wanted to tell these men to open their eyes, to be present, to strive for equality for all and to be tolerant and accepting and don't waste any opportunities to save the world.

After my class ended, I drove back to Columbia to see my mom who lives in a memory care unit.

Her face lit up when she saw me, but she was careful not to say my name. Because she wasn't real sure who I was.

I sat with her while we listened to Father Jerry give a quick sermon, during which she kept trying to tear the Psalm's handout she was reading because she said she needed it for the puzzle she was doing (no puzzle existed).

I helped her to the lunch table in her wheelchair, but kept having to remind her to raise her feet. She kept forgetting that her feet on the ground kept the wheelchair from moving.

I got her set up at the table, but she kept trying to fold part of the tablecloth and a piece of her blue jeans, saying she needed to get them fixed, did I have a needle?

Her tablemates passed around a pencil, circling what they wanted for lunch. When it got to Mom, she looked at it and picked it up with her left hand. Instead of her usual right hand, she attempted to circle with her left then dropped it, giving up. I asked what she wanted and circled the items for her. Then she resumed messing with lining up the table cloth with her jeans.

When her food came, she picked up her fork with her left hand, passed it to her right, held it in her fist, then set it down. She had forgotten how to use it. I cut up her meat, offered her a bite, and she said, "No I'm full, I already ate before I got here...let's go home." Another employee came, gave her shoulder an affectionate squeeze, and Mom said, "Will you tell her to leave me alone?" She was talking about me, because I was trying to prompt her to eat. I got up and hugged her, told her I loved her, and she beamed, "I love you too, Lou Lou." Her use of my nickname made me ache and I had to hurry out while I could still see to walk.

Once I got to my car, I realized how important those hugs and each "I love you" are.

No matter how frustrated we get with social justice issues or how angry we get over the political climate in America, there's nothing that will keep life in perspective more than to see your mother losing herself. I want to crawl into her brain and free her, let her out, let her go. She wants to go. I see it in her eyes. Her will to live has diminished to a blip. For our pets, we consider it humane. For our people, we make them suffer.

It helps to remember that life isn't fair, that someone else has a tougher go of it, and that in the grand scheme of things, life is brief. Love every life, love your family, love yourself. It matters. Tell those you love how you feel. Show them. And above all else, keep life in perspective. Loving those close to you matters. It's really all that matters.