Patience and Acceptance

As time passes, I’ve learned that patience and acceptance travel together. Try as I may, I cannot have one without the other. Being patient requires me to accept and adapt to a particular situation, no matter how difficult that process may be. This is where my faith in God sustains me.

Yesterday I spent some time with my mother at her nursing home. My husband and I arrived just as my brother was pushing Mom’s wheelchair into the conference room where we would have lunch together. Mom is just getting over a bout of bronchitis and her voice was raspy, but she was visibly happy to see us. But as anyone who is familiar with dementia will tell you, emotions can change in an instant.

We spread out Mom’s favorite treat of Chick-fil-A nuggets and waffle fries, but she immediately became preoccupied with her new surroundings. “Where am I?” she asked, wide-eyed and frightened, followed by, “Where is my home?”and “How did you get here?” I couldn’t tell if she was just confused by the new setting (not her normal dining area) or by our presence. Either way, she grew increasingly aggitated and eating was the last thing on her mind.

Mom’s food grew cold over the next 30 minutes while we tried to distract and re-direct her attention back to her lunch. After a while, she discovered the fish tank behind us, and we turned her to face it while she sipped her milkshake and talked to the fish. Sometimes you have to pick your battles, and we knew in that moment it was more important to just enjoy our mother’s presence. I sat beside her and we talked about the different fish and their beautiful colors. After a few minutes she grew calmer and was again her happy self.

Knowing how much Mom enjoys being outdoors, we decided to take advantage of the break in the rainy weather, and wheeled her out to the patio. As always, she loved looking at the flowers and she enjoyed the fresh air. I took her for a little stroll along the walkway to see where it led, grateful to have this  precious time together. Still, I longed to have a real conversation with Mom and share news about my life. I bent down and kissed her cheek. “I love you, Mom,” I said. “Oh, I love you too!” she replied. I knew she meant it.

It takes both patience and acceptance to endure life’s situations while we walk this earth. But it is my faith in God that gives me strength and hope as I await the day when Mom and I will once again converse and laugh together in our forever home.

Lessons from the Beach

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is walking barefoot on the beach with my dad. We lived in a house beside the ocean, so we walked along the shore nearly every day in the summer. Sometimes I held his hand; other times he gave me a piggyback ride, especially when my legs got tired on the walk back home.

My father always loved the ocean, so living in Ocean Bluff must have been a dream come true. Of course it was only natural he would expect his kids to love the ocean too. My mom, on the other hand, preferred sunbathing and wading — anything to keep her hair from getting wet.

Standing below my childhood home in Ocean Bluff, MA (2017)

I’m sure one of my parents’ greatest concerns was making sure their kids could swim. With waves crashing just a few feet below our patio, the fear of drowning was very real. I was probably around 7 years old when my brother and I were signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons held at a neighboring beach. We rode our bikes to the early morning lessons after school let out for the summer. I remember how cold that water was, and how my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering all the way home. I just jumped in the water and did what I was told figuring that was the quickest way I could get out and get warm again!

I’m not sure what those lessons accomplished, but I didn’t learn to swim. I think I got the basics of treading water, but that was about it. I also remember going to a summer camp that had an indoor pool, the first one I had ever seen. I was always the only kid in the shallow end, watching the other kids jumping and splashing around in the deep end. I didn’t learn to swim there either.

My cousins had an in-ground pool in their back yard. One Fourth of July we drove over there for a family gathering. I think my dad secretly hoped this would be  the day I would finally learn to swim. I watched him with envy as he dove off the diving board again and again. He made it look so easy! He kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it, but he didn’t pressure me.

I was tired of clinging to the edge. I remember slowly walking out onto that diving board, taking a deep breath, and jumping off.

I was terrified, but knowing my dad was watching me and was close by gave me the courage I needed to take that leap. And even though I got water up my nose, I didn’t drown. I bobbed to the surface and felt such a rush of excitement. I did it! I absolutely loved it and spent the rest of that day diving into the pool.

I knew swimming in the ocean would be different, but now I had the skills — and confidence — I needed to swim in deeper water. My dad taught me how to float, dive under the waves, body surf and snorkel. After that, I pretty much lived in the ocean every summer until we moved away.

To this day, even though I live far away from my childhood home, the ocean is my still happy place. It makes me think of my dad and the amazing times we shared together.

Just like my Heavenly Father, I will always love him for giving me the courage to leap, and for staying close enough to rescue me if I fall below the surface.