Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Challenging Day

I brought a jigsaw puzzle of Petra in Jordan to the residents of the nursing home today. To my surprise, when I visited my mother, she was making a jigsaw puzzle of 60 pieces. She was laboring though and she appeared uncomfortable and tired. I told her that I brought in the puzzle of a country where I lived and and she asked, "You were there? When? Before I was born?" I knew she was having a challenging day.

We talked a little bit and her words were not fitting together well and it frustrated her. She spoke despairing words and fretted about her condition. I decided just to sit with her and to let her talk when she needed and to nap when she needed rest. I sat there most of the time and massaged her legs and held her hands. She appeared to calm down.

I offered her some chocolate drops and she ate two of them. She said that she did not like them because they were two sweet. In fact, she didn't like any of the food that day. I knew she was out of sorts and not having a normal day.

After a hour's visit, I told the nurse I was going to leave, but that my mother was speaking gibberish. She nodded and said, "Wait a minute." She wheeled my mother's air compressor over and plugged it into her air hose because the portable air supply had run out. I hadn't noticed but I made sure my mother kept the oxygen tube in her nostrils. Within seven minutes, my mother became alert and coherent. It was much easier for her to speak with clarity.

I mentioned to the staff that in a week and a half I would lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She said it would probably be best if I did not mention it to my mother. I'll only be gone for eleven days and she might not notice the passage of time.

After a while, we shared communion and she nodded off.

It was time for me to leave so I said goodbye to her. I drove off and immediately received a call from my sister who just arrived with her husband, daughter, and their dog. I turned around to meet them.

My sister told me that my mother received results from a recent test to indicate a slight heart abnormality but that no further treatment would benefit her condition. It explains her weakness, confusion, and increased sleeping patterns. She also suffers from a chest cold.

When I visited my mother again, she was much brighter-eyes and was happy to see me. She liked playing with the dog and was delighted to see the family. It was time for dinner and meals were being brought to everyone. She seemed in a more pleasant mood. We wrapped her warmly in blankets and her supper was brought over to her.

She receives good care from the nursing home, and the staff enjoy her kindness and pleasant ways.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Dog's Day

My mother had a good day. She was active and alert and very talkative. When I arrived, she was eating slices of pizza and eating a blueberry muffin. She then wanted a glazed donut and a couple of chocolate drops. She took one and saved it so that she could feed a dog later in the day.

We talked about her health, Halloween, the food, and dogs. She talke a lot about dogs today, and then a large dog named Dunkin made its rounds. It was a large dog with soft fur that does not shed and it is half poodle. He went around looking for people who would pet him and he also cleaned up the floor from the crumbs that people dropped. She tried to give the dog a piece of chocolate and his owner tried to explain that chocolate is not good for dogs.

Then a stroller came by and two small dogs were in it. All the residents got excited. My mother tried to get up so she could feed them some chocolate bits. She likes to be generous. She is always offering her food to others. When we explained that it was not in the best interest of the dogs to eat chocolate, she seemed resigned and said, "O well. I wanted to eat it anyways," and she popped it into her mouth.

I offered her another and she declined, but as I picked up the bag, a few spilled out. I started to place them back into the bag, but she eyed the one that was left over and she asked, "Is that for me? I'd like to have it." You certainly may. Then she finished her donut and coffee.

Then she said, "These people, these women, they really get around. They are always going somewhere. They travel a lot. I see them wherever I go. I guess that means I travel a lot too."  - Yes, you are always busy about many things.

So, it came time for communion. She said, "Wait. Let everyone know. They have to come. Aren't you going to tell them you are having church?" Well, these women over at that desk have other activities for them. I'd like to invite them.  "Well, we should let them know so they can come."

I read from Thessalonians and we prayed the Our Father. After asking what she would like to pray for, she said some of the usual things - that we each have happiness, that her family is healthy, and then she said, "I think the rest of the family would like to come to communion. Will you offer it to them?" Yes, of course. "OK. I'll talk with them about it."

"Well, they will make their adult decisions and they have to come to this on their own."

I think they really want to come.

When the time comes, everything will be ready for them.

Just then, a staff assistant came by and asked if my mother would like to go outside in the warm weather. "Yes. I can go outside?" "Absolutely. The fresh air will do you some good." "OK. Then."

I said my goodbyes and she happily went on her way.

I'm very grateful for the attentive care she receives from the nursing home. It reminds me of Thessalonians, "I thank God whenever I think of you."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pumpkin Brownies, Kisses, and Wedding Cake Fudge

I could not make my usual Thursday afternoon visits to the nursing home, but Friday afternoon worked out well, especially with the traffic. I saw my sister, the head chef at the nursing home, and she needed a little respite from her work in the kitchen.

My sister and her husband have done terrific jobs at losing weight and maintaining their desired levels, but as today was a bit edgy, she was easily tempted to try the vanilla wedding cake fudge I brought for my mother to taste. She said, "It is Friday the 13th in October, I'm off work all next week, and I should have just stayed home today. I'll splurge because I'll be good all next week." She liked the fudge, but then she enjoyed even more the square of pumpkin brownie covered with chocolate ganache. She seemed more cheerful afterwards. Myself, I love pumpkin flavors, and these brownies by our Jesuit community cook were just terrific.

As you can tell, I have a food ministry. The Italian side of me likes to offer food, and that is good because then I do not have to eat it.

I brought a plant for the caretakers of the residents of the nursing home, just to brighten up the day. Some of the staff tried the wedding cake fudge. (My art class last night enjoyed the pumpkin pie fudge.) Then I saw my friend Gordon, who has just come from a funeral. He was visiting his wife and we chatted a bit, and then I introduced him to my sister. Through our conversation he found out she was the boss cook.

My mother was in bed and we woke her up for the visit. My sister went back to work and we chatted for a bit about her legs and that she likes to sleep. Her sleep seems to be increasing lately. She had a piece of fudge and then some Hershey kisses. She had four, but she said she should not have more than two. Then she said, "But I like to eat chocolate."

It came time for communion and I asked, "would you like me to read Scripture?" "If you think so." "Only if you want." "Yes, please." I read from Matthew's Gospel where it said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you." She made comforting sounds as certain phrases were read and then she said, "That is nice, but I don't understand it all."

I told her that God wants each person to be in friendship with him and that God will give us more than we think we deserve, and God will always say yes to us. "Even me?" "Yes, especially you."

Is there something for which you would like to ask God? "I want to be pure and good. I want everyone to be happy and for there to be peace." Anything else? "I want my kids to know that I did my best for them, that I gave them equal time, that I loved them equally."

"Would you like to know God better?" "Yes, but...   does God want to know me?" "Yes, of course."

Did I do enough? Am I a good person? "A very good person, and God want you to be his friend. God wants to thank you." "Really?" "Absolutely. I know it."

So, let's pray then, "Our Father,...."

She trailed off to sleep after her prayers. She would awake to say something about her children. She talked about tasks she had to do from decades ago, and then would gently pass into sleep. I waited for a bit and let her rest comfortably.

I left the room and my sister came back. We talked with Gordon, and my sister left for the day - and for her week's vacation. I gave away the remaining kisses.

I went to the monastery for some prayer and conversation with my monk friend before returning to Boston for plans to see a theology classmate from Brazil.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Play Ball

The trip to Whitinsville began in a surreal way. As I drove along the road, I looked for a convenience store or pharmacy that might sell my mother's favorite candies, but I did not see them. I was almost at her place when I decided to take a detour to the place I lived when I was nine years old. I thought there might be a small market where there was one in the 1960's, but it was a liquor store, so I thought of one more place - a tiny market near our old house. It was quite strange for me to be in this area that I haven't visited since 1970 when we were burned out of our tenement house. I went to house number 139 and it was amazing the number of memories that returned. I stopped in to the small market and it has not changed in half a century. How odd that the search for my mother's chocolates would bring me to this place. It is as if life has come full circle.

Before I visited my mother, I stopped to see a man named Gordon who was visiting his wife. We enthusiastically greeted one another and chatted for a bit. "So, at first I did not know you were a priest. We as Christians, we can pray together." "Yes, we can my friend. We are all on the same journey."

When I arrived to see my mother, I found her in a circle with other residents. The stereo was playing music of the 50's and the activities director was throwing a ball to each resident. My mother was semi-asleep. Her head was bouncing to the music but her eyes were soundly closed. I lifted her arms and swayed back and forth and she started dancing - never to open her eyes.

Then, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" came on and I started singing - alternating between the bass and tenor. She became even more animated and she she swayed in rhythm and all her friends started commenting on the sleeping dancer. Then she awoke when she heard my voice and she said to her friends, "My son, the priest." All the women applauded. Then my mother wanted some chocolate. I obliged. I shared some with Gordon as well.

I picked up the beach ball they were throwing to one another and for twenty-five minutes I played ball with them. They caught the ball and threw it back to me or to another person. They laughed and tried to play along and they sang to music. We danced and kept the circle going. Then, it was time for dinner.

Before dinner was served I asked my mother if she would like to see the new cards I made. "Yes. Yes." I showed each one to her and she started crying. "Why did you let this be hidden for so many year?" "I don't know." "I wish I encouraged it earlier. I wish I knew. I wondered why you did not do it growing up. You kept saying there is only room for one artist in the family. I knew you had this talent."

"What matters is I'm doing something with it now, and I'm very happy with it. Being happy is the whole point of life."

Would you like communion before dinner? Of course!

I read from some of Matthew's Gospel and then from Paul's Letter to the Romans. She oohed and aahed at first and because weepy in consolation, then when I read, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God," she broke down. We prayed the Lord's Prayer and several other women joined us. Each made the sign of the cross.

I asked my mother, "For what would you like to pray?" All the women started chiming in with their prayers: I want everyone to be treated with respect. Let's pray for the old and the sick. We pray that everyone loves each other. We pray for you, too, Father. We pray for peace and happiness, and so forth.

Then we received communion and everyone fell silent.

So, I said to each woman, "I want you to repeat after me: God, show me your special love for me." They all repeated it, except my mother said, "God, show me your special love for you." No, I'd like you to pray it for yourself. Replace "you" for "me." God, show me your special love for me. God, show me your special love for me. God, show me your special love for me.

I want you to keep saying it all night love. God loves you and wants to tell you how much he loves you. Let him tell you.

I like that.