Mother's Day is 2 days away, and I have very mixed feelings about that.
I'm on my way north to make almost-Mother's-Day visits with my mom's college roommate in CT and her sister in NH, and I'm happy about that, but most of the time I feel bereft because both my parents have passed away and I'm an orphan of sorts.
I spent some time this morning window-shopping in historic Winchester, VA's pedestrian mall. Lots of interesting things to see and perhaps buy, especially in a shop featuring gifts, jewelry and accessories made by local artists. I made myself walk out of there because I feel too poor (financially, anyway) to make a single purchase in a shop like that.
I bought myself a coffee and sat down on an iron park bench to enjoy the mild weather and think carefully about what nifty gifty I could buy as a souvenir of this trip. Almost immediately, an elderly, almost-blind, one-legged woman in a motorized cart zoomed up to me and we began to chat. Like so many of the old ladies I deal with at work, Miss Elizabeth is lonely and feels neglected by her family and erstwhile friends, who rarely find the time to visit her. She was vehemently against a Mother's Day get together. She hates the way families take out their old mothers to restaurants and show them off for a few hours before taking them back to whatever lonely place they spend their solitary days.
That's a sad story to hear, but when Miss Elizabeth and I parted company, I shook her hand and told her she had made my day. Not only does she share my own mother's Christian name, she is also a feisty and interesting person. I have to believe that God sent me to sit on that bench so that I could appreciate something I might otherwise have missed in my pursuit of worldly goods. I can't afford to buy $100 worth of pretty handmade jewelry, but I got a priceless Mother's Day gift instead. I got to connect with my own mom via Miss Elizabeth Marshall.
The funny part of this story is that I walked around the block in order to take a different route back to my hotel, and ran into Miss Elizabeth again. She was sitting in the sun smoking a cigarette. I laughed and said, "I can't get away from you!", squeezed her hand and enjoyed the big smile on her face.
To paraphrase a Bruce Springsteen song, life has been giving me some hard lessons lately, about pain, loss, disability and hope. Years of chronic pain, my mother's death, my hearing impairment and other serious medical problems have sorely tested me. When I finally found a doctor who took my pain seriously, he asked me why I had checked "suicidal thoughts" on my new patient questionnaire. I told him, "I have 30 years ahead of me if I live as long as my mother did. I refuse to live in pain for another 30 years."
In all that I've learned and written since then, the most surprising discovery has been my ability to remain optimistic about my life and my future. If you hear despair, anger, frustration and fear in what I post here, please don't turn away. All is not dark, and eventually a glimmer of hope will light the path ahead.