It was time for bed. I felt the sharp, burning pain throughout my back that has been all too familiar for too many years counting, as I tried my best to get into a position that didn’t make me feel like I was being crushed underneath a ton of bricks. Each one excruciatingly more uncomfortable than the next. Finally sleep deprivation set in leaving me no choice but to surrender to the sandman, however I lay. Hours later, the sunshine was sprinkling through the decoratively carved mahogany shutters that lined the wall of windows just behind my head. I could hear my four year old stirring around in her room. It was time to get up. I knew that the first movement I made would tell me what today was going to be like. If I felt pain shoot through my back and down into my legs then I could count on it taking at least five minutes to slowly work my way off of the bed and into an upright position. If I moved my leg and felt the normal everyday pain, there is hope to complete all of my tasks for the day and have some normalcy. I slowly moved the pillow out from between my knees as I carefully swung one leg out from beneath the other. There it is. Sharp, stabbing pulses down through my lower back and legs. I braced myself on the bed and pushed my body up with my arms as to escape from engaging any of the muscles in my back to brace my movements.
“Mama you gotta get up now,” my toddler commands from the doorway of her room.
“I’m trying to baby, it’s just going to take a minute,” I responded.
“Here, I’ll help you.” As she places her tiny hand on my arm in effort to lift me up.
“You know what would help me, baby girl? If you brought Mama her cane. Can you do that for me?” I said to her.
“Sure I can!” She replied with eagerness in her tiny munchkin-like voice.
She walks over with my dark cherry stained wooden cane, with a crimson red dragon carved and wrapped all the way around it. The handle of the cane is the dragon’s head with a tiny gold ball nestled inside of its slightly opened mouth. The same cane that my grandfather used throughout his life and was handed down to me by pure chance after he passed away. I never really had much of a relationship to my grandfather. I knew a lot about his life, but I didn’t really know him. I remember when I was younger, he always used to scare me. He had a very strong voice, loud and forceful in nature and his thick Castilian Spanish accent made him terribly hard to understand. He lived his life as a Baptist missionary who spoke multiple languages fluently and yet his English was never quite discernable. He was well educated and brilliant by most standards. Looking back, I don’t honestly remember ever seeing him without a cane by his side. To me, it was never a sign of his age or fragility. His cane made him look noble in some way. There I was leaning on the same one that he had used for God only knows how many years, touching the same smooth, shiny polished handle that he probably used thousands of times to pull himself up with. I knew that in my use, I looked nothing more than weak and definitely not noble.
I walked across the hard wood floors as the sound of the cane thumped with each slow step that I made. It reminded me of all of the paranormal shows that I’ve watched, where the investigators hear disembodied sounds of a peg leg or cane moving back and forth across the attic floor above them. I wondered if long after I am gone, would this be the sound new tenants will hear of me visiting this beautiful old house, from beyond the grave.
I creeped out of the bedroom like a snail. My four year old who never walks anywhere but instead hits the ground running each morning, was carefully holding onto my leg as if to steady me. In all reality, one slip or loss of balance would send us both tumbling.
“I’ll help you, Mama.” She looked up and said with a smile. Her big, brown, shoe button eyes staring up at me.
We made it to the living room where I lowered myself down as gently as possible onto the lounge as this little child covered my legs with a blanket.
I am too young for my child to be caring for me. This is something she should be doing when she’s in her later years and I’m 80, not when she’s four years old. And yet, she knew just what to do. It was as if she carried the wisdom of hundreds of lifetimes in her bones and the empathy of the Universe in her soul. She could see my pain and all that she wanted to do, was take care of me.
“You’ll be okay, Mama. Are you okay? You’ll be okay, I’ll help you.” She said lovingly.
I smiled back at her and said, “Yes baby, Mama’s okay, thank you so much for helping me like a big girl.”
While softly patting my arm, she leaned down and kissed it, then sauntered off to play in her room.
I remember that pat. When her brother was two and my back would inevitably go out, we would lay next to each other on my king sized bed watching television. Occasionally he would look up at me from the crease of my arm and see the tears rolling down my face and gently pat my arm. As if to say, “it’s okay, Mama.” He being in pain all of his life, it was as though he completely understood what it meant to feel this way and sympathized with it. I remember his small hand stroking my arm as he turned his head back to watch the TV. Through her, I see him. The uncanny physical resemblance is one thing, but their souls are seemingly one in the same.
A few minutes later she brought me two oranges to peel for her to eat.
“You can have some of my oranges if you want, Mama!” She said eagerly.
“No, it’s alright. These are for you and Mama’s not all that hungry.” I replied.
In truth, I was in fact incredibly hungry. I have been sick for days now. The same thing that tends to happen every few months. My lymph nodes swell, I start getting sick with everything I ingest and am fatigued from my body constantly depleting my energy sources as it sends the only nutrients I can keep down, right back out of my system. As far as my daughter would ever grow up to know though, mothers don’t get hungry. We live off of pure will and determination. Hunger is something we don’t pay any attention to and is often just necessity that sneaks up at the end of each day. She ran back to her room with oranges in her bowl to watch her favorite movie. I laid on the lounge in the living room wondering how I was going to see to anything today, especially this little child who seems to be needed by me more than I am needed by her.
I’ve lived for twenty-five years in this kind of debilitating pain that comes every month or so. There’s always pain with my condition, but when my back decides to go out completely, the pain drives up to a level of almost intolerable. It always comes without warning. How many more years will I really have to live like this? I’ve missed out on so much now, by just being physically unable to take part. How much worse will it get? I was assured long ago that it will never get any better, but that doesn’t tell me how bad it will get. What happens when my daughter is a teenager and wants me to take her here and there and I’m laid up like an invalid? I felt anger for a split second that out of all of the people in this world to be inhibited by some sort of physical ailment that it had to be me, the person who has so many goals they want to reach that this stupid physical ailment will not allow for. And then I remembered, though I do not believe that whole adage of “Everything is for a reason,” like some almighty force is standing over your life with a sword of influence and chaos, I do believe that everything that happens in life is there for you to learn something from. Something valuable that can progress you into a more evolved state of being. Sometimes being still is the hardest thing to do. For those of us who are perpetually needing to be doing something to calm our anxieties, it undoubtedly IS the hardest thing to do. Being still forces us to self-reflect. To see the things that our constant state of frenzy will not allow us to see. A quiet mind is one of the most crucial keys to our own personal evolution. Everything these days is sounds, colors, frequencies, senses overload. When our spirit just needs peace and quiet to fully recharge, we stifle that with television, radio, and go go go. We have to always be busy, moving, and accomplishing something. But what if the biggest accomplishment for me right now is learning to just be still? What if the mere act of doing so could shore up the areas that are broken and need fixing? What if laying down because it is too painful to move a muscle is the best solution for a highly cluttered mind? Could it be the Universe’s way of forcing me to get quiet and listen?
Every few minutes my daughter comes in to check on me.
“Mama, are you okay?” She says as she pats my arm and leans her face in to take a closer look into my eyes.
It’s as if she’s searching for some tale-tell sign within my gaze, signaling her to the truth.
“I’m fine, baby. Just resting.” I reply.
“Okay Mom. I’m going to watch my movie!” She says confidently as she runs out of the room.
She knows her role today. She is the nurse, the caretaker and I am the patient that should just lay still and be quiet. Popping in to check on me as if it is part of her duties.
“Do you want to watch Golden Girls?” As she picks up the remote to find the app playing it on the TV. She knows me all too well.
“No. Mama’s going to sit here quietly for a minute.” I respond. She takes out her iPod and puts it on Jazz and walks out of the room.
Who is this child? How does she know me so well at only four years old?
Perhaps today was nature’s way of a holiday. A forced day off for reflection. A remembrance of sorts for the many blessings that the Universe has given. One of the greatest blessings staring right back at me, with a compassionate heart and caring eyes. My thoughts abruptly shifted from the disparaging “why me,” to the immensely grateful, “thank you.”