Thursday, May 31, 2012

Talismans and Distractions

A pendant from my friend, hanging from Mom's beads

It takes a lot to get though a day in the hospital with a loved one.

And thus, even though I am, for the most part, a rational being, not terribly prone to magical thinking, I am employing a lot of talismans. And distractions.

Talismans for comfort, and to indulge that small part of me who still clings to magic. Because... why not? What could it hurt?

And distractions because I would like to retrain to my last shreds of sanity. And those dreadful few days in the ICU, sitting in the preternaturally noisy hush, watching a machine breathe for my mom? Were whatever is the polar opposite of awesome. Hence the books, magazines, snacks, telephone, and screens large and small.

The talismans? Jewelry, most of it given to me by dear friends, that I can see, touch; feel giving me strength as I sit. And wait.

First a bracelet of faceted stones from my friend Rachel who lost her wonderful parents way too soon. As their only child capable of caring for them (her brother is autistic), she knows more than any other close friend, what it means to be a caretaking daughter.

Then a wonderful necklace made up from a "Super Mom" pendant my dear Empress Alexandra gave me last year when she was my roommate at BlogHer, strung on beads that were once my mom's. Purple beads, our favorite color.

Finally another bracelet: sparkly plum-colored glass beads, with a flattened silvery bean in the middle, a perfect worry stone conveniently encircling on my wrist. This is one of sixteen nearly identical bracelets.

I gave one to each of my fellow Listen to Your Mother NYC cast members just before we began our show. It reminds me of my non-caregiver self, she who moves through the larger world and will do so again, one day soon.

May they work their magic and keep my mother (and me) safe.

Holding Mom's hand again

As for the much needed distractions: I played a lot of games on my iPhone. A million thanks to my Scramble and Words-With-Friends friends.

I brought with me about the only two books I could tolerate in this situation: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Rosanne Cash's Composed; both memoirs, by the way, as that's how I roll these days. And also? I have meaningful connections to each of these authors, and somehow that made me want their words with me, let me feel like I was sitting with a friend, not a stranger, as I was reading them (or in the case of Rosanne, re-reading).

And hearing their words in THEIR voices inside my head as I read, instead of my own, also makes me feel less alone.

Jenny's book is with me because it is hysterically funny and also raw and real at the same time. And I think reading a book by someone more neurotic and over-the-top than me makes me feel calm and together in comparison. I know Jenny, have hung out with her at blog conferences (she's in that funny category of fond acquaintances who feel like close friends to me because I am privy to their innermost thoughts via reading their blogs) and have given and received numerous hugs from her.

She is a generous and compassionate woman, just the right person to sit with me by my mother's bedside. (She also gave my blog its first big boost by linking to my From Autist to Artist" post in one of her Sunday wrap-ups two years ago, and for that I am forever grateful.)

As to my connection with Rosanne, it is more tangential and tenuous, but I still feel it. Besides the fact that my sort-of-step brother (it's complicated) has toured with her band at times, and that I am friendly with a couple of friends of hers, we also met face to face once. Her book was actually released ON my 50th birthday and I chose to go to a reading/performance/signing that night. 

As someone who has gone through the illnesses and the loss of so many of her loved ones, and written about it so soulfully and eloquently, I have found much comfort in reading her book yet again this week.

And Jenny and Rosanne are both Twitter friends. Which is the perfect lead in to my final distraction, which is also so much more than a distraction, is actually a tremendous support and source of strength. And that is social media.

Through Twitter and Facebook (and this blog) I have never felt alone on this journey with my mom, not even for a moment, not even in those darkest hours when her strength was at a nadir, and I thought I might lose her.

Finally, if you're here for an actual update on Mom's actual condition: As of today, Thursday, she is much improved. My brother (her step-son) Bruce came in yesterday to lend support, and he took the evening shift, so I could pick up my kids, have a family dinner. 

Yesterday afternoon, Mom moved from ICU to a step-down unit, and, if all continues to go according to plan, will be in a regular "medicine bed" tomorrow and then on to rehab, working on walking again. Because she still has that broken hip, remember?

So there will be a lot more hospital days in her and my future. But with the right talismans and distractions  - and my wonderful community of friends and family, both physical and virtual - I will make it through.


  1. I hope you both have a peaceful weekend. xxx

    1. Thank you. She continues to be on the mend.

  2. A broken hip is where my journey of becoming my mom's caretaker began. As much as I love reading your words, I apologize for not being here very often. Sometimes they hit me so hard as I remember a moment like that with mom, and I miss her, so desperately. Sending you well wishes and prayers for your mom's speedy recovery.

    1. I understand. I am so sorry that you bear pain that echoes my own. Thank you so much for your well wishes and sending hugs back to you.

  3. Hi Varda. So great to read that you and your mom are hanging in there and on the mend. I had happened to stumble upon your blog one day (who is that squashed woman who is caretaker of her parents, like I was?) and then just a day later when closing out all the windows I had left open, read of the sudden emergency. It brought back so much pain and empathy that indeed, this is the way it often happens as we age - boom, you go down in a fall or boom, the cat scan is not good and suddenly you are yanked into the world of living in the hospital. I prayed for you and your mom, for peace and freedom from pain, and will continue to read here and send healing thoughts your way to be part of the magic that seems to be working!

    1. Thank you. Happy to take all the magic that comes our way.

  4. I hope she continues to progress.
    I just read Jenny's book and I loved it so much. And I have no connection to her, other than I want to be her when I grow up (and I'm pretty sure she's younger than me so I'm not sure how I'll work that out..).
    I've been wanting to read Composed, I'm glad you mentioned it. I am obsessed with memoirs.

    1. Well if you like memoirs you will LOVE Composed. The writing is luminous and the stories fabulous and interesting. Rosanne has a lot of insight into herself but also really knows how to let details and images tell a story, too..

  5. Impossible for me to tell you how much you mean to me and how highly I think of you.

    You're like this nebulous dream of what I'd like to be like.

    Your honesty, your authentic living, your out loud love for others.

    You mean the world to me.

    1. Oh, Alexandra. The love is so mutual. Wearing your necklace this past week has meant more to me than I could ever express, every time I look down at it or feel it swing out and back I think of you and our marvelous time in San Diego last summer. Although a few minutes ago I just accidentally dipped it in the peach yogurt I was feeding my mother. So then the necklace reminded me of peaches. Tasty

  6. I'm so glad to hear that your mother is improving. I've been thinking of you two.

  7. Love that super mom pendant.

    And I enjoy giving and receiving meaningful little tokens from friends. They comfort me and make me feel loved/understood.



I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!