Growing up, I never saw a day when my mother was sick. She seemed the personification of vigor even during her six pregnancies. One of us would pop out, and she’d be back on her feet smiling (only a son—maybe a husband—would describe birth as “pop out”).
My mother is now 92, and her days of perfect health are history. Five years ago she began to experience AFib attacks where her heart rate would peg and then rest at 170. Two years ago she got shingles (it was so bad I immediately got a shingles vaccine), and her memory is slipping (but not as much as she thinks).
For the last five years, I’ve taken my mother to her regular doctor, to the cardiologist, to Urgent Care, and to the hospital. Almost every time, a nurse would turn to my mother and, in an unnatural voice, an octave too high, croon, “And how are we today?”
I used to look around for a three-year-old child, but they meant my mom. I wanted to say, “This old lady is smart as a whip; she can still beat any scholar in a theological or philosophical debate. She taught in a one room schoolhouse in Montana, chopping wood for heat, and she got a master’s in social work before your own mother was a twinkle in your grandfather’s eye.”
Visit after visit, nurses and technicians treated my mother like an infant. I wanted to shout, “She’s a smart, mature, grown woman.” But I kept quiet.
Last fall I went to my doctor for a checkup. The nurse came out, and in a high falsetto voice, she sweetly smiled, “And how are we today?” I looked around for my mom, but the nurse meant me.
I don’t know when it happened. I learned to ride a bike, I graduated from University, I got married, I gained a few pounds (okay, quite a few pounds), and then a nurse treated me like a halfwit. I never saw it coming. Whatever happened to my wise golden sunset years?
Sure, some high points in my life were in the past. I peaked at trumpet in high school, I probably crested in physical strength around twenty-seven, and my career maxed out around age fifty (when I promptly quit and began Beliefs of the Heart).
But having individual talents reach their zenith is very different than finding my whole life plummeting downhill. Although, I did have my very best round of golf last year, one over par (maybe I should check out the Senior’s Tour).
And it’s strange. I feel I have more to offer now than ever before. I used to accept every opportunity to speak: at conferences, seminars, church, youth groups, and retreats. Now I don’t have the energy to accept them all. I’m too tired. Yet I think what I have to say is wiser.
My Worst Cup of Coffee Ever
Last January, the Springs Church in Colorado asked me to do a Hearing God retreat. The retreat was Friday night and Saturday, and I was asked to give the sermon on Sunday (it begins about 48 minutes in). I woke up early, made myself a pot of coffee, poured it into my travel thermos, and sipped it as I reviewed my sermon notes.
When I got up to refill my mug, I realized that when I made that coffee pot, I had forgotten to put in the coffee grounds. I had just drunk a tumbler full of hot water. And I hadn’t even noticed. Maybe I am getting slower of wit.
Two weeks ago, my brother Pete took me out for my birthday. (May 27, in case any of you feel the need to remind me next year, because I’ll probably forget.) I told him how the nurse treated me last fall with her sickly sweet, “And how are we today?” I asked him, “Am I really that old?”
Pete said to me, “That’s nothing!” Because he also took mom to the doctor a few times this past spring, and three different doctors during three different visits thought our 92-year-old mother … was his wife.
Misery really does love company. His story was the best birthday present this budding geriatric ever received.
P. S. Jesus stirs our hearts so we bring them to him; so we can grow in intimacy with him. So we can hear his voice.
To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (Is that all there is?), and read, Hearing God in Conversation.
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