Garnish with gratitude

December 9, 2015

No matter what the situation is… close your eyes and think of all the things you could be grateful for in your life right now ~Deepak Chopra

It starts simple, with a wish to make a difference, and to begin…

The morning set about in a hurried rush as I dashed off to pick up my mother. Unlike my usually slow Sunday mornings, this day pushed me forward with a catch. A thirty-minute drive provides the time essential to reflect on the day ahead, as I make my mental checklist.

As soon as I arrive, the deterioration is violently tossed at me as I observe the desperation swimming in her eyes. Her wavering personalities revealed, as the cruelty of this disease strips away another piece of her. Like a missing limb, I watch the details of her existence falling away, and shutter the thought, as if I can escape it.

Walking her towards the car I ignore the odd layering of clothing when I identify the hint of jeans peaking from the hem of her sandy brown pants. She is confused but ready, unaware of what is next; I begin the exaggerated excitement attempting to deter the trepidation she asserts with change.

In my effort to keep the mood light, I joke about the cold weather, and she smiles, although I’m not sure she understands? Like a frightened deer she startles easily, so I delicately approach her with small talk, her tiny hands grasping a folded piece of paper, nervously she creases the piece repeatedly as she shuffles towards the car.

We drive along the quiet streets in stillness. Some of her vocabulary doubles up, a stutter of sorts, while other pieces come out unfinished. The words fade like debris leaving a dump truck, slowly sifting away until all that remains is silence. Overwhelmed as I attempt to uncover what is on her mind, this sadness delivers a cavity of melancholy to my stomach, and I ache for the life I once knew.

As we travel in softness, she comments on the sunshine and I recognize the peaceful moments she still holds onto. With my attention lucid, I catch sight of the paper she clutches and see the scattered mix of words scribbled throughout, unfinished, this note brings her comfort as it leaves me perplexed.

Concerned that she has not eaten, our first stop is breakfast, and a place of comfort for myself where I can witness the nourishment she offers her body. The dawning of the disease reminds me of her inabilities, emphasizing all she is incapable of doing; I open the menu to order for us both.

Oblivious to the world around her, a fruit cup arrives, and like a child at Christmas, her eyes light with surprise. Slowly I unwrap her silverware, as I watch the confusion return while I search for the words required to present her meal. Finally, handing her a fork, she slowly begins eating.

Seated in quiet contemplation, I watch the cheerful families sharing their morning breakfast together. A wave of self-pity washes over me as I look up at the shell of what was once my mother.

Sitting before me, like a toddler, unsure of her surroundings, yet preoccupied with her food, I listen to the chatter of laughter from the booth behind us. Drifting back to my own childhood, I remember the laughter and happiness that once filled our days.

Loudly her cup drops to the table, as reality growls the recognition that this is where I am needed right now. Anxiously I grab for my phone, in an attempt to distract myself from the tears stuck in my throat, as this lonely truth engulfs me.

Alone in this well of self-pity, I begin to rise, while attempting to shake the sadness. Making the decision to bring joy to those around me, from the words of Booker T. Washington, “if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

And so I begin…

Quietly, a smile fills my eyes as I beckon our waitress over, requesting the check for our booth and the one behind me; I set my plan into motion. The waitress relishes in the moment before her, and her confusion turns to joy. My only request is that she does not reveal it until we have left.

Walking with my mother to the car, she smiled at me, as if she knew what had just taken place, I smiled back, holding onto the belief that she did, as I welcomed the flush of joy that washed over me.

That small act of kindness brought me back to life, reminding me of the joy that still exists even if we have to search for it. Bringing a change in my attitude and a new a sense of reprieve provided the determination I needed to tackle the day ahead with new appreciation.

Sometimes gratitude shifts into something greater when you believe with a giving spirit.  Our days are filled with the opportunity to share love, to find joy, and even during those tougher challenges, send out a tender act of kindness, for these are the moments that help guide you through the rough spots.

I’d like to declare the rest of my day went smoothly, like those likened in a movie, but that is not my reality. My mother continued to struggle with the confusion in the life before her; I just held a better attitude while helping her through.

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