One of the hardest things to do as an adult is to watch your parents age. My parents are 85 and 87 and in poor health. Watching them grow older is similar to watching the light in a light bulb dim a little, then a little more, then a little more.
Each day has become a struggle to care for themselves and each other. My mother tells me that her life, with its almost 65 years of marriage to my father, three adult children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren “went like that” — she says as she snaps her fingers.
“Honey, it all goes by in a blur. Those years of working, raising kids, making a mortgage and monthly bills, changing diapers, family vacations, summers, laundry, cooking, hugs and kisses, bedtime stories, keeping up with the dailies…you look back and realize it was your life,” she says. “And then you get old and wonder where did the time go? I can hardly remember your childhood, much less your brother and sister’s. I can barely remember last week. When did my brain get so foggy?”
The past three months have been especially hard as my father’s health declines. Two weeks ago, I was able to call in Hospice. Each day, he gets a little bit weaker. Each morning my mother calls me asking me if today is the day. I have no answers. I barely have words.
One thing I do have is commitments, and I take them very seriously. My teaching gigs are usually set a year in advance. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep one teaching commitment this year at Adorn Me because I simply could not leave home at the time. I look back at that week now and realize it was the beginning of the end.
Things got managed and more stable so I went to Bead and Button in Milwaukee last week, and in less than two weeks, I’m off to France for the workshop Susan and I have been planning and organizing for the past 16 months. Our students have put a lot of faith in me…in both of us…to travel overseas for an adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m excited and honored and blessed to ensure they (and we) get it. I know being transparent about my dad’s upcoming transition coupled with the fact that I plan honor my work commitments leaves me vulnerable to criticism, but my only response will be that until you truly walk in someone else’s shoes you have no idea how she feels.
I have been doing everything in my power to juggle my parent’s financial and medical needs these past three months along with my normal life of being a mommy and wife and business partner and artist. It’s been really hard, but I’m proud of myself for doing it. To anyone whose ever gone through this, you know the hardest thing to do is to stay as strong as you can, advocate for your loved ones, and get shit done. Particularly when the thing you really want to do is stay in your bed and cry and wonder why. Or maybe just sleep your way through the pain and hope someone else steps up to the plate so you don’t have to. That’s not who I am, but I will admit I thought about it.
My innermost circle of family and friends have circled the wagons, so to speak, and offer me constant support though love texts, emails, phone calls that I let go to voice mail and even private Facebook messages. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for their love.
Each time I think of my blog and that I haven’t posted much, I feel badly. I wasn’t sure how to put this out there in the world. I have shared a small bit on my Facebook page, but even that’s been uncomfortable. I feel like this is my business and nobody else’s. But then I also feel strongly that if a person is going to use social media as a window into his or her world, it’s not fair/right/reasonable to only share the best and brightest. It sends an unbalanced message of what life is really about.
One of the most important aspects for me of truly living the artist’s life is to share what it looks like. To be authentic. To tell the truth. To be real. To put work into the world and let others judge it, and you, and yet still do it because you know it’s your life’s path and what’s required of you. To stay strong and make, even when all you want to do is laze about in bed to ward off any sorrows/monsters/egos/demons/drama that may be chasing you — real or imagined.
Today I breathe. Tomorrow, God willing, I breathe. And the next day and the next day and so on until one day I can try to explain to my beautiful then-grown son and daughter that life went by in a snap of my fingers.
P.S. I took this photo at dusk in the plane on the way home from Milwaukee. I added the filter “blue haze” to it and a sun flare, but I just love it. I think it sums up how I felt when I was heading home to my family after another successful show. Despite how difficult it’s been and how hard it’s yet to be, I believe our world is filled with wonder, awe and opportunity.