Tenderly, I now touch all things, knowing one day we will part.
Tomorrow morning at around 7 a.m. we leave for the airport, get on a plane and fly to Detroit, where we'll get into a rental car and drive to my parent's house. My husband, my 18-year-old son and I will be visiting for ten days. I've already got a long to-do list: doctor's appointments, arranging for various services for my mom, filling the freezer with healthy nutritious food, etc. It's only fair that I spend a working vacation because my younger sister is the main caregiver, since she only lives 200 miles away from my parents, while I live 2,000 miles away. She has her hands more than full and my husband and I will try our best to get to things she doesn't have time for.
I'll be happy to see my parents. However, it won't be a relaxing, stress-free holiday - or at least I don't expect it to be. There will be work to be done, not just for my parents, but for my 82-year-old aunt. I don't know whether or not I'll be seeing my daughter, who I've been estranged from for two years, and that adds to my stress. That's why I'll be painting my toenails purple later tonight - well actually my husband will be doing the painting, but you get the idea. I chose purple because it's a bold color that will (hopefully) remind me that I'm a strong, capable woman and I'll be okay, no matter what happens.
I'll also be taking three books of poetry with me - one in my carry-on and two in my suitcase. The one going into my carry-on is a small book bound in Japanese paper where I have copied down poems and sayings I come across that I know will provide mental support, if things get tough. The quote above from St. John of the Cross is in this book. I love this quote because it reminds me that we won't be here forever and to value the time we have left, even if my parents are sometimes cranky. The other two books of poetry I'm packing are small: Poetry to Calm Your Soul and A Book of Psalms: Selected & Adapted from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell. Reading poetry helps center me and keeps me rooted when things are stressful. Several of the poems that I've written down are by American poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poem, Kindness, is one that I turn to often.
The last essential in my of toolbox is my ipod. It's one of those tiny ipod Shuffles. I can't choose the songs that come up, but that's okay with me. I almost prefer it because I don't have to think about what to listen to, it just comes along. The key, however, is to never, never put any music on your shuffle that you don't want to hear because that will be the song it chooses to play over and over. I think my playlist's fine-tuned now and I look forward to sitting back on the plane tomorrow and listening to music and putting my ipod on at the end of a long day. It helps me go to sleep. There are so many songs that I love that it's hard to choose one to share, but I'll try. Carrie Newcomer's song, Bare to the Bone, has a special place in my heart because I saw her in Bloomington, Indiana in 2000 and this was one of the beautiful songs she performed.
What essential things do you take when you visit your elderly parents? How do you look after yourself during visits? I'd love to hear your story.