Archive for May, 2017

Time

May 22, 2017

Bernie and I were
in Charleston last week,
photographing springtime.
We spent three days
at Middleton Place,
an old plantation.
This is the home of the Middleton Oak,
a huge, lovely old tree, laden with Spanish moss.
It’s been around more than 500 years.
Photographing that particular tree was one purpose
of our journey.
Bernie made several pictures when we arrived.
I chose to wait.
People were standing under its extensive canopy;
I wanted to photograph the tree by itself.
Besides, the position of the sun wasn’t just right.
I would come back late in the day
when the sun was lower in the sky.
That evening I made my way there
only to be met by yellow police tape
fencing in the gigantic tree.
A mammoth limb had crashed to the ground,
creating an unsightly hole in its profile.
That night a second, larger branch broke off,
making the Middleton Oak even more lop-sided.
The next morning tree experts discovered
that many branches are becoming hollow.
It’s unsafe to go near anymore.
There’s nothing to be done.

Why do I write about this tree
in a space dedicated to thoughtful caregivers?
Because of the lesson I learned last week.
I waited to photograph that venerable tree,
sure I had all the time in the world.
But I was wrong—
the time I had was quite limited;
I just didn’t realize it.
So I missed the image
I had traveled 800 miles to make.
I learned that if we keep waiting
for the perfect time to do something,
we stand in real danger
of missing our opportunity.
If we hold back from saying
what we’d like to lovingly or joyfully say,
it may never get said.
Equally sad, it may never get heard.
Even if it seems we have all the time in the world,
we never know how much time
we really have.
So when an opportunity arises,
let us not dally.

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Target

May 11, 2017

Bill never regained
his full physical health
after his stroke.
He lost his job,
his sense of security,
and his independence.
Mostly he lost much of his self-esteem.
All this, of course, was very hard to deal with
and his feelings easily overflowed.
Often they came out as sadness or depression,
and understandably so.
But sometimes his feelings took another form:
anger.
He got angry at his wife, Ann,
very quickly and quite loudly.
He yelled at their children
about the smallest of matters.
Even the family dog didn’t escape his outbursts.
As the pressure within their home built,
Ann sought out a counselor
to help her understand and cope.
What did Ann come to understand?
Bill had lost his former sense of control.
He felt embittered about the unfairness
of what had happened.
He was resentful at those who lived normal lives
and who didn’t appreciate all they had.
He took offense at those who pitied him.
In truth he was mad at the world at large,
at life itself.
Who was within convenient range
when his feelings boiled over?
Not those who no longer came around.
Not the whole world at large.
Just those within easy reach—
the members of his family.
And with whom did he feel safe,
whether he understood it or not,
to ventilate such strong feelings?
Those who had long known him, long loved him,
and would do their best to accept him,
whatever he said or did.

The story of Bill and his family
is a common caregiver story.
Those who are most available to,
and most trusted by, a hurting care receiver
are also the most convenient targets,
and usually the safest.
That awareness may not make the anger
any more agreeable,
but it makes it more clear:
somewhere way down deep
love is at work.

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