Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

"That's the way things come clear.
All of a sudden.
And then you realize how obvious they've been all along."
Madeleine L'Engle


At the same time I was complaining about having no inspiration, I was reading a book that was clearly inspiration just waiting to be realized. It just took me a couple of days of pondering to figure it out.
Mothering Mother by Carol D. O'Dell is the author's story of caring for her 90 year old mother who suffered from Parkinson's disease with a couple of years of Alzheimers thrown into mix to keep things interesting. It's a great book and should be on every caregiver's bookshelf. Coincidentally, O'Dell lives here in Jacksonville. When she wrote about walking along the river to clear her head, I imagined she was just down the street. Feeling like we were neighbors who could wave to each other on the occasional outing, made her story even more recognizable somehow.

Not that it was difficult to believe what the author was saying. She wrote honestly, with both humor and candor, about a situation that was neither pretty nor easy. Amazingly O'Dell wrote her book while still raising teenage daughters and going to school herself. What I can't quite figure out is how she managed to care for and clean up after her mother day after day and still have the energy for normal things like shopping, attending church and making love to her husband. I think it helped that her husband was, without a doubt, her best advocate. I like to read about husbands like that.

The similarities in our situations stop with the age of our respective parents, yet O'Dell wrote about my life. In fact, she nailed the business of parenting a parent. Watching the person who raised you cross a somewhat obscure line to become a childlike version of someone you once believed hung the moon is not for sissies. O'Dell paints a word picture with poignant detail. She wrote the story I'd like to write but lack the confidence and know-how.

Reading O'Dell's essays (none of which were very long) helped me to realize that if I look closely, I have all the writing inspiration I need. As long as Dad is alive, I really have no excuse for not writing on a regular basis. I don't have to wait for inspiration or a particular muse to strike. What I need to do is take each day as it comes; then find the words to tell the tale of a self-proclaimed grumpy old man with a failing ticker whose engineer's mind is still sharp enough to keep his moody middle daughter on her toes. On any given day it could be happy or sad, maddening or insightful.

But why write a story that I know has only one outcome? Hmmmm.

Perhaps because we're all in this life together. The more we reach out our hands (and words) to help each other out, the easier it can to be for all of us. O'Dell opened a window into her world for me. Opening mine to someone else is not so much noble as it is passing on the gift.

And there's also a less compassionate reason - I've got to have something to do while Dad does crosswords.

Merry ME

Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir. O'Dell, Carol D. 2007. 208p. Kunati. You can get it on Amazon. Tell them I sent you!

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