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when the window opens

essay by Andrea: when the window opens

by Andrea
December 6, 2012

Caring for my mother has brought unexpected lessons and insights into my life. Some of the most valuable and beautiful discoveries came through the necessity of slowing down. In that slowing down, it's like a window opened up into another world. Before that window opened, there were all sorts of anxieties and fears to do with my mother's aging and how to best care for her. But after the window opened, something changed. The anxieties and fears did not go away, but they moved far into the background. 

How do we slow down when there's so much to do to care for our aging parents? This, on top of our own very full and demanding lives? How does the window open? 

In my case, slowing down was the result of a choice. A deliberate and conscious choice. I chose to jump into my mothers life at a time of crisis. In the months (even years) before that choice, my family and I were beginning to see that she could no longer take care of herself in some fundamental ways, and that she was making some choices that were not leading to good places. I saw this as a pattern that many elderly fall into: feeling lonely, lacking emotional and intellectual stimulation, not eating well, relying on alcohol to give a sense of connection, or maybe to dull the pain of loneliness. My heart was breaking as I saw my mother lose interest in her life. I looked around and asked, who can help? What supports are out there? We found a few, but in hindsight they were patches. Little aids to help her get to the store and what not. But something deeply was pulling at my heart. Something needed to change in a way that was far more than practical.

And then one day I realized that the only way this aching tug on my heart was going to ease was through me, not someone or something "out there". That was the moment when everything came to a halt in my life. In a suspended moment, there was only one question.

Was I willing?

Was I willing to put my life on hold, and jump into my mother's life without looking back? The answer came in the same instant that the question was asked. 


In that moment, I felt a warm breeze enter my life. I was about to turn my life upside down, but inwardly I felt an amazing calm. On the outside, my life became a whirlwind. Almost without thinking or planning, I emptied my office, reorganized my belongings and priorities, and within 3 days, packed my car and headed to Lake George to spend the summer with my mother.

That summer was probably one of the most difficult chapters in my life. But inwardly it was a still pool.

It was the summer I was forced to slow down.

It was the summer the window opened.


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