The Advent of Advent

I can’t believe it’s December already!

The gardens have been cleaned out (mostly) and the last of my butternut squashes are sitting in a sunny living room window. The temperatures have recently dipped below the freezing mark and we’ve even had a dusting of snow here in southern New England. Halloween and Thanksgiving Day have given way to the mad rush of Christmas preparations.

In the midst of making plans and checking lists, the season of Advent tends to slip by unnoticed. Not because it’s not important. But because our sights are set beyond it. Let’s pause and take one season at a time. It’s really worth it to slow down and appreciate the present, even as Advent celebrates the hope of things to come. One thing that’s helping me focus on Advent is a series of videos arriving daily in my inbox. They’re from Dynamic Catholic’s Best Advent Ever program.

A few days ago, one message really hit home for me. In it, Matthew Kelly talks about how life doesn’t usually turn out the way we expect. He calls it the unexpected life. (Watch it here.) For some reason, we judge our days based on how closely they adhere to our expectations. We make plans, write lists, schedule our time, and relax into a general sense of control over our lives. And we get frustrated, disappointed, or even irate, when things go sideways. What if we started each day instead with the notion that the unexpected is the rule, rather than the exception, of daily existence? Would that change our reactions? I think so.

The very day I saw that particular video was a day I needed its message. I emerged from a funeral mass for a friend’s mother only to find several text messages from my mother’s caregiver. I needed to take my mother to the doctor asap. Her doctor couldn’t see her and so instructed me to take her to Urgent Care. And that’s where I spent my entire afternoon, waiting for my mother to be seen, answering her repetitive question “Why are we here?” every twenty minutes or so. I found a new source of patience in the acceptance of the truth that anything can happen on any given day.

So, while Advent is about the coming of Christmas, it’s also about taking one day at a time. It’s about being present in the moments and appreciating the wonder and messiness and unexpected nature of life. And whether Advent and Christmas are faith celebrations for you or not, everyone could benefit from the messages they embody. So, happy December! And may you find peace in your unexpected life. 🙂

Vaccine Success

Yesterday, I took my almost-eighty-five-year-old mother for her first dose of the Covid vaccine. What a relief to know she’s on her way to better protection from this nasty virus.

Signing up for the appointment was somewhat frustrating, in that each time I’d run through the preregistration questions, I’d get to the end and my chosen slot would no longer be available. I’d have to start over, answering the same questions again. I finally got wise and skipped ahead, over the next available time slot, and managed to secure her an appointment. That was a few weeks ago. I hear the Massachusetts website has been upgraded since then.

Anyway, we arrived a few minutes early to the vaccination site — a hotel about a twenty minute drive from her home. Everything ran smoothly, starting with the officers who directed the cars entering and exiting the parking lot. The building entrance was a long walk from the parking lot for an elderly person using a walker, so the first officer directed me to the front curb where a second officer helped me get my mother out of the car and set her up with her walker. Then he escorted her into the building while I parked.

Inside, signs marked our way toward the hotel ballroom which held a dozen or more vaccination stations. Chairs were set out along the way, from the front door to the ballroom, for anyone needing to sit for a minute. At the entrance to the ballroom, we were directed to the left, to one of many rows of three chairs, where people waited to be called to a station. We waited no more than a few minutes, just enough time for my mother to remove her coat. Vaccination station #2 waved their sign and beckoned us to them.

The vaccination itself felt a little anticlimactic. I guess I wanted cheers or maybe music and fireworks. Nothing. So, I’ll now provide my own:

I’d been hearing about the new “buddy” proposal in Massachusetts, where the one who brings the eligible person would also be offered the vaccine. That plan hadn’t been discussed yet at the time I’d made my mother’s appointment, but I’d heard that some “buddies” were being offered the vaccine on the spot, even without their own appointments. I wrestled with the question of whether or not I’d take the vaccine if offered. I’m not in one of the high-risk groups. So many people need it more than I do. I probably won’t be eligible for months to come. What should I do? After reading a NY Times op-ed about this very dilemma, I decided that I’d take it, if offered. Well, they didn’t offer. So, no fireworks for me yet.

Before we left the vaccination station, they scheduled an appointment for my mother’s second dose, writing it on a small card that serves as her proof of vaccination. We were directed to the far end of the ballroom for observation. Again, we took seats in one of many three-chaired rows and waited the required fifteen minutes, along with many others who’d just received the vaccine. We’d actually been given a Post-It note with the time of our allowed departure written on it. When our time was up, my mother asked, “Now what?” The significance of the experience seemed somewhat lost on her and she was relieved to hear that it was time to go home.

The whole experience gave me hope. Hope that someday most of us will be vaccinated. Hope that fewer people will be sickened, debilitated, or killed by this disease. In the meantime, I’ll continue to do my part by wearing my mask, washing my hands, and practicing social-distancing. And reminding my mother to do the same. 🙂

 

Gratitude Spiral: Day 359

Today, I’m grateful for a new home aide for Mum.

Starting today, a woman whom my Dad & I interviewed a couple of weeks ago will visit my mother three mornings a week. She seems pleasant and well-qualified. Hopefully, things will go smoothly. I’ll probably still visit once or twice a week, but it’ll take some of the pressure off my schedule. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 316

Today, I’m grateful for the GrandPad we got for my mother.

She’s never been a fan of technology. Although she owns a cell phone, it’s a flip phone, and she wants nothing to do with a smartphone. A few years ago we bought her a laptop and tried the whole email/ social media thing with her, but it didn’t last. Her memory seems to be failing and it was all too complicated. But her new GrandPad allows us to video chat with her and gives her a few games she can play on it, without making it too complicated for her. And for that, she & I are both thankful. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 281

Today, I’m grateful for sitting with my mother and talking about how blue the sky is, even though she doesn’t know what day it is and can’t remember what we said five minutes ago. At least we can talk and I can make her smile.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 243

Today, I’m grateful to have visited my ailing aunt, in Oregon, in 2018, with my mother.

My mother knew it was probably the last time she’d trek across the country to see her sister. And she was right. Her sister passed away yesterday and my mother is dealing with her own health struggles now. I’m thankful she and I had the chance to say ‘goodbye’.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 102

Today, I’m grateful for a new adventure for my mother.

After months of talking about downsizing and looking at apartments in the surrounding community, my parents have found a place. Although it means we have work ahead of us, cleaning out fifty years worth of accumulated stuff, my mother is ready. . . and excited. I hope that I never grow too old for a new adventure.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 29

Today, I’m grateful for my parents.

Yesterday, we celebrated our final Christmas in my childhood home which will be sold in the coming year. My parents have hosted the Christmas Day festivities for years, but it’s time to pass the torch. Age and health issues have slowed them down. But I’m grateful to still have them with me.

Who are you grateful for today?