Monday, July 6, 2009

Busy Not Being Busy

I admit it – I’m an anal-retentive perfectionist with obsessive compulsive tendencies. Combine that with being the parent of children with special needs and ‘busy’ is the only word to describe my life.

I’m always busy, be it taking children to doctors, working both in the office and at home, cleaning and then cleaning some more, washing/folding/ironing laundry, or trying to keep all the mountains of school paperwork organized. I know I don’t relax enough, and I know I should just slow down more, but it’s difficult. However, that is about to change and I have my next door neighbor, Mr. Baldwin to thank for that.

Mr. B. is actively dying of brain cancer. He was diagnosed just a week ago, and the doctors have given him two weeks to two months. I’m betting it’s closer to the two week mark. So, my last week has been busy with all the normal stuff, but also with doing anything and everything I can do to make his last days comfortable and as good as they can be (which doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean good as it is usually defined). He has family, but they are not caring for him. Rather, they are already fighting over who gets what once he is gone.

My caring for him has meant making meals, cleaning his house, changing his bedding, and taking him once last time to the bank. I have also put each day’s medicine in little containers marked ‘morning’ and ‘night’ because otherwise he won’t take it. But it has also meant something even more important, and that is taking time to chat, to just visit and listen to his stories and dry his tears when they come.

Those chat times have forced me to slow down, and even under these sad circumstances, I find I am really enjoying the slowing down. Mr. B. is reminding me what is really important in life, and it isn’t the cleanest house on the block or the clothes without wrinkles.

So, I skipped writing a blog last Friday. Instead, in between caring for Mr. B., I went to a friend’s pool and just floated in the sun. I watched Ashley take her first jump on a trampoline, and I ate ice cream an hour before dinner.

Mr. Baldwin needs me right now, and I need him – I need him to remind me to slow down and enjoy myself more. Life is sometimes too short and often unexpected surprises step in to change everything which seemed important.

Thank you, Ed. Thank you for being a wonderful neighbor and friend, and for reminding me to savor life. I hope the end comes peaceably for you, and it will if I can do anything about it. Your lovely wife, Dot, is waiting for you, and I know soon that you will be reunited and happy together again.


Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

Nice post.

My mom passed away seven months ago and one of the things that still hurts the most is that despite all the time I did spend with her (both in the last five months she was in the hospital and before that), I still wish I had spent more time with her.

On a couple of occasions, she offered to pay me to stay with her and not go to work when she was in the hospital. And yet I felt trapped, how could I possibly take my mom's money; the idea of her paying me to spend time with her was ludicrous. And yet I couldn't afford not to work. So I went to work. And now I regret it. And the irony of it all ... had I let her pay me not to work, I would only have been taking from my own inheritance. And I would have had more time with her.

Slow down indeed. And always ask ourselves this: Whatever it is that seems so important at the moment (be it work, paying bills, even preparing for a school meeting), in six months or a year from now will we even remember what it was that was so important at the time? On the other hand, will we realize what we might have missed?

Unknown said...

This bring tears to my eyes. Lots a tears! My sister passed away, after years of struggling with cancer. She was the only one of the family living in her state. Our family took shifts flying out there to care for her, but in between she had the best friends in the world!
You are doing a wonderful, wonderful thing!