Over Time, This will be More Graceful


I’ve avoided it, almost resented it because I feel like it’s just one more thing I can be distracted by (by which I can be distracted – okay, Ed Brush). I mean what do I care about the minutae of someone’s every day life?

And then there was this from my friend Judy’s blog – a twitter (tweet?) from a friend of hers:

“I just changed over oxygen tanks for my father. My first time. A lot of dictations from both sides. Over time, this will be more graceful.”

My heart slowed down when I read this, as if time itself had slowed down so the words could embed themselves in my heart, between its beats.

Over time, this will be more graceful.

It isn’t true that roles get reversed as a parent’s aging makes them dependent on you. You don’t become the parent and they the child. It’s just a new and confusing relationship, for both sides – a dance for which there is no choreographer. You make it up as you go along. You improvise.

I’m beginning to think that most of life is improvisation. Fred Astaire strove for perfection. Gregory Hines used his mistakes to take him to the next step.

I had to improvise a lot in my mother’s final years. She was fiercely independent, but depended on me, just as her mother was fiercely independent and depended on her. Your job is to lead the dance, but not seem like you are.

My mother died right in the middle of a misstep in our dance– a particularly graceless moment. And so I thought that grace would be forever denied me.

But, death ends a life, not a relationship and it’s up to the survivor to carry it on. That’s a paraphrase from the film “I Never Sang for my Father.”

My mother died three years ago this July. At first I felt kind of numb. But then the numbness wore off and I fell into a vortex of questioning – particularly wondering whether or not I had been a good enough daughter. Could I have done something to make the dance more graceful?

Finally, sometime over the last year the answer came to me in the form of forgiveness – no, there was nothing I, or she, could have done to make our final dance more graceful. There was no choreographer. Just the two of us finding our way through. It was up to me use the misstep to create a new dance – one I would have to dance solo.

I had to improvise. Work with what I had, not what I had hoped for. And trust that I had made my choices based on love, my love for her and myself. And assume that she had done the same. And then I had to forgive us both for not being perfect. Our dance was more like a Gregory Hines, than a Fred Astaire dance.

But I like Gregory Hines dances more than I do Fred Astaire’s. I think they had more life to them. In forgiveness, I found the grace I thought was not mine to have.

Over time, this will be more graceful.

Sometimes, great wisdom is found in the minutae of everyday living.

And now for something different . . . a bit of grace from Mendocino

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