We spent last week visiting Tom's soon-to-be 90-year-old dad, who is recovering from a fall-necessitated hip replacement surgery. In the first few days he was suffering with quite a bit of confusion confounded by age- and/or med-related dementia. Seeing him like this triggered a cascade of emotions in me. The anniversary of my mom's death landed on Mother's Day this year, and seeing my father-in-law in this condition brought up a lot of the grief over my mom's decades-long journey and demise from Alzheimer's. In a recent email to a friend, on a similar topic, I wrote:
Grief is so fascinating to me. How others' grief can trigger our own--even grief that is decades old--but feeling it, yet again, can provide a needed release--being able to see the experience with our current eyes. Not sure that grief ever leaves, it just asks to be expressed when it arises.
My father-in-law's condition triggered my grief around my mother's death. She died just four weeks before Andrea. I barely had time to wrap my head around her passing before being hit with Andrea's. As we drove back to our hotel room after our visit with Tom's dad, I allowed these feelings to rise and expressed them through sobs that first night.
So, needless to say, last week was an emotionally draining time. Hence I was in a sensitive place. One night at dinner a comment was made about weight loss. It arose from observations about the to-be-expected-after-surgery weight loss of my father-in-law. My comment, "Thank goodness he had the weight to lose" was not able to turn the conversation away from the 80-year-old speaker lamenting the weight she "needed" to lose while recounting the exact weights from which she'd risen in her younger days, and how she'd like to get back to those weights.
As my regular readers know, this is not the sort of dialog to which I want to be exposed or take part. My mind raced with thoughts of how to redirect the focus without causing a scene or offense, as I was keenly aware that I was not the only one in a sensitive place. When the speaker finally paused for a moment I interjected, "You know, I once weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces...and I haven't been able to get back to that weight either." We all shared a hearty laugh and I was able to quickly ask an unrelated question, which effectively ended the weight talk.
Tom later said, "That was brilliant...I am amazed you were able to recall your birth weight!" I laughed and admitted that I had no idea what I weighed at birth. I just made it up in the moment. I think being in emotional upheaval had slowed me down enough to really consider how to make a gentle, yet effective response.
Tomorrow I am headed to Humboldt County for a visit with a dear friend and grad school-roommate. It will be a time of rejuvenation and rest for me as she is someone with whom it is easy for me to relax into being myself, with never a need for redirecting the conversation.
May you, too, have the gift this summer of spending time with someone with whom it is easy to be uniquely and thoroughly you.
[Originally posted on the Gürze Books Eating Disorders Blogs]