She is 82 years old. Her hair is baby thin and gray at the roots. Ms. Clairol hair color #4 colors the rest. She was admitted to the hospital last weekend because she fell by the pool. She has five fractures in her pelvis. Meet my Aunt Miranda.
It’s Monday. My mother and I are at her bedside talking to her about her discharge and rehab journey. Half the time her mind is in a confused state because of her medications. But, before her hospitalization she was already forgetful. Now, she is nervous like a bee buzzing around for a place to LAND. Her sister, Lucy, tells me all the time, Miranda gets nervous especially when she can’t find her morning pills. She prays to St. Anthony to help her find them.
I watch her lay there in her hospital gown, her elbow bruised and so swollen it’s the size of an apple. Her tummy is bloated. Her socks are canary yellow. “Where am I ?” she asks. “Am I at the Filipino Community?”
“No, you are at the hospital.” I tell her. She taps her food tray. “Where did you buy this?” She asks my mother who is trying hard to conceal a laugh. “It’s from the cafeteria. I didn’t buy it.”
“Oh, I see.”
Miranda takes a sip of her chicken broth. Her nose wrinkles. Her tongue comes out.
Oh sh–, I think. I hope she didn’t burn her tongue. She reaches for her napkin and wipes her tongue real fast. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “Is it hot or is it that you don’t like chicken broth?”
“IT TASTE LIKE PEE.”
“Have you tasted pee before?” I demand.
“No, no. But if I did that is how it would taste.”
Mother and I leave her room to get the giggles out of us.
One day last week, before her, fall I picked Miranda up for her stress test. This is how it went: “Slow down, you are going too fast. Where are we? Oh Lord, we are lost. I’m late already.”
“What do you mean late? You told me to pick you up at 7:15 am. I figured your doctor’s appointment was at 8:00. I see on your appointment card it’s at 9:00! Aunt Miranda, you have to calm down and you cannot tell me how to drive or we will crash and burn.”
“I like to be early.”
In certain moments of the day when I’m emotionally balanced, I have wave of peace in me. God is using Aunt Miranda to widen the space in my heart to be more patient and caring. After four hours with her, I’m wiped out. I need a stress test myself. I talk to myself about not resisting what is in front of me. I need to lean into it, whatever that means.
I study her wrinkles and her collapsed tent-like eyelids. Quietly in the back of my mind, I hear myself saying that one day I will have just as many wrinkles and my hair will be thin like hers. I’ll have a cane or a walker just so I can go from point A to point B. That can’t happen to me, I retort. I’m too vain for a cane, let alone a walker. Then my thoughts go further like to wearing DEPENDS. I’m pretty sure that those don’t feel and look right with yoga pants. It’s a sad vision.
What concerns me the most is I don’t want to give my family a hard time caring for me. I love this one song by U2 called ONE. One lyric goes “we have to carry each other, carry each other.”
Maybe this is what it’s all about? I’m giving piggyback rides to my aging mother and relatives while I wait for my real life to begin.
As a little kid, did you get piggyback rides? And now, is there an Aunt Miranda on your back that you are giving a piggyback ride to?
Dear God, You said “ask and you shall receive.” Please lighten my piggyback rides. Can someone give me a piggyback ride? I know that my aunt is in my life for a reason. Continue to keep me present. For all the men and women caring for aging parents and aunts, keep us calm, kind, and present. May we care for our relatives without judgments. Amen. Lola