My last unfinished post was in July. I was working on a piece about my recent one-week conference with the Oral Health Kansas Dental Champions Leadership program and members of the Kansas Leadership Center. It was a somewhat stressful, slightly confusing, but incredibly inspiring week and I’d decided, after a week of digesting, possibly a bit of regurgitating of what I’d learned, to write about the transformational event.
Then, life happened. While in San Antonio, visiting her brother who’d been placed in Hospice care, my mother fell and broke her left femur and left shoulder. While she is in relatively good health and active, she is 80 years old. Needless to say, I left for San Antonio those first few days of August to be with my parents as my mother underwent surgery, was moved to a specialty hospital for three weeks of rehabilitation and to keep my father company and busy. I drove to and from San Antonio alone, came back briefly to Wichita to begin the transition in my department with the new dental residents, and returned to San Antonio with my brother to take the long drive, now made longer as we broke up the 12-hour jaunt into two days, stopping every two hours to get my mother out of the car to walk . During this time of commuting and arranging, I also contacted a friend of the family to being renovations to make my parents bathroom handicap accessible, filled out paperwork for a home grant for said renovations, tried to keep up with work through email and phone, and held on desperately to my mind.
Luckily, my brother and sister were able to help, my brother coming down from Kansas City and taking the long drive to Texas to bring mom and dad home, and my sister and brother-in-law arriving from Illinois and stepping in the last week of August so my husband and I could keep the vacation we’d planned months ago. So, by Labor Day I’d settled into the “catch up” groove at work, continued to check on my parents on a daily basis, and finally turned off the auto-pilot. It was at that moment, the moment I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, I realized that while I’d been in survival mode the past five weeks, I had learned much about myself and my life. Much.
I learned that I can’t always go it alone. I’m one to take a situation and take charge (I get this from my mother) and not want anyone else to intervene. I call this my “I Got This” mode. I discovered I’d been lying to myself. I didn’t “have” this. I needed help. And when I was too stubborn to ask for it, it came all on its own, much like Christmas even though the Grinch had removed all the wrappings.
.It came in the hundreds of offers by email, phone and Facebook to help. It came in unsuspecting envelopes from friends and family who knew the commute, the living arrangements in San Antonio and the unexpected medical costs would be a burden. It came with family members offering up their homes en route, cooking meals for my brief stays, texting me during the drive to make sure I was okay. It came with my family in San Antonio, who were carrying the anxiety and grief of knowing their father was spending his last days with them, and yet, coming to our rescue, offering us a place to stay, a ride when we needed it, a visit to the hospital to encourage my mother. It came with the arrival of my siblings, both from long distances and both carrying patience and concern, not just for my parents but for me. It came from my supervisors at the university who told me to go and take care of my family and not worry about work, and it came from my staff who stepped up and did their very best to ensure I did not return to any messes or issues, and proved to me they could carry the torch in my absence. And it came in the morning walks I had with my father, the walks to relieve the stress from our bodies and minds, the walks to talk about the familiar (sports, family, food), the walks to remind us of normalcy. And it came from my mother, fighting to heal, forcing herself out of the hospital bed to take tenuous steps with her quad-walker to show me she was going to go home, not to worry, she would be fine and that I would not have to carry her burden, the burden of being the one to take charge, at least, not for long.
Those two months, well, I could write a book about those two months, but what has stayed with me, what has lingered in my mind, what I think about at night before I fall asleep, is how I’d been lying to myself. I’ve been never fully in charge. Which meant my mother, our rock, the one we rely upon to lead and carry us, well, she was never fully in charge, either. How did I not see this? From one who always says that one does not succeed alone, but needs the support of others, how had I failed to recognize that in those moments, those “I got this” moments, it was “We got this.” Because, even when we step up and do take the lead in a situation, whether we realize it or not, we are taking everything we’ve learned from others, everything familiar and comforting from others, everything we rely on from others to take the initial action. When people think, “I can’t really help, but I can call or text or send a message on Facebook, or send a card, or take charge of “my own situation” or open my doors, send over a meal, lead a prayer at church, whatever it is they decide to do is part of the charge. It is part of the “got this.”
So, if you are reading this and were part of my “Got this” in August in September, I apologize it’s so late, but thank you. I couldn’t have made it through those few months without you. Wait, WE couldn’t have made it through those few months without each other. Thank you, not just for what you did but for what you continue to do and for what you taught me. I promise, this is a lesson I will never forget.