Monday, January 23, 2012

Healer: Mom Part One

My Mom celebrated a milestoney birthday last week and, healthy, happy (or insert whatever odious vocabulary for people describing a person approaching the winter of their lives in reasonably good shape, like "spry" - give me a BREAK) and exquisitely nearly universally loved as she is, I'm having some trouble with the whole aging-parent thing. In Facebook I described it thusleh: "I'm finally seeing my old friend Time for the thief he is, and doing my best not to beg him against all sense to spare my Mama."

I'm writing some stuff and sending it to her, along with multiple silly gifts, like footie socks (NOT the ankle length because they pinch, you see). To deal with my grief at the sudden realization that my time with her has an ending, and to let her know what happens when you don't let your daughter make a fuss with streamers and many people and cake. This thing I wrote went along with a donation to the organization she works for - Life Services. Think Planned Parenthood for fundies - they bring in young ladies and men with STIs or unplanned pregnancies and direct them to care, house them if their home life has broken down and facilitate adoptions. What they don't do is anything - anything - related to contraception. You won't walk out of there with a sample bag of condoms, is what I'm saying. But the deal is that when I rail against the sign-wavers trying to skew politics away from a woman's right to choose, one of my problems with them is that what's THEIR strategy for dealing with what would be an enormous influx of childbirths and dependents if abortion is abolished? The people Mom works with are some of the ones actually trying to help, their way. Mom herself gives exams (she's a nurse practitioner), prescribes meds, counsels and prays with them.

She came to Seattle to study male exams - the clinic wanted to be able to treat boys, but none of the other NPs would do the exams, delicate creatures. At Harborview Mom saw many man parts, and on her last day of training found herself holding and crying with a gentleman who got news of his positive diagnosis for AIDS from her mouth. She came home from that day profoundly changed, and wept with me in her turn for her brokenhearted patient. My understanding of my Mother's depth of spirit was likewise rocked for all time. So I gritted my teeth, suspended my own ideologies, as she has hers for love of me, many times, for a minute and made the donation (I donated double to PP to salve my conscience) and wrote this for my Ma:

I think of the hundreds – it must be thousands – of young women and men that you’ve seen at Life Services, and wonder how many you individually remember. Probably doubly that of the average human memory, for yours is nothing short of astounding, how much random information about people you pack in there.

Who do you remember the most? The ones who cry? The brave, smiley ones? The pretty ones who just got a big bad surprise about how much their boyfriend really cares about them? The angry ones? The ones with pimples and terrible hair who you can tell never felt valued at all? The meek ones who stare at the floor and twist their fingers? I’ll bet the meek ones – you’re such a sucker for the scaredy-cats of the world. And the boys…you must get the contrite, the wrathful, the sullen, the frightened – the odd cooperative good guy. You must sit through oceans of awkward silence.

Most of them must be so scared. They’ve found disease, at the beginning of their lives, that they’ll never be able to wash (or wish) away. You’re visited by baby girls who’ve found out that they’re going to have a baby – they’ll become Mother before the Woman in them ever got a chance to wake up on her own. I’ll bet in so many cases you’re the first really good Mother (they wouldn’t know it, because you’re MY mom and only Nathan and me really get how amazing you are) they’ve ever seen. And you have them for so little time. Half an hour, maybe? You must have had some who were abandoned by their support systems when the news came out. I wonder what you must say to someone who has lost everyone else in the gaining of their new little one.

I’ve thought about the humiliation endured already by your patients. You must see victims of abuse. You must have the terrible job of examining victims of abuse, which must be another kind of hell for them. I wonder if you’re the first person who has touched them with care, and love. Dignity. You speak to the most embarrassed of all humans – teens – about the most embarrassing topics known to anyone. I’ll bet you’re the first person to have The Talk with some of these kiddos – overdue by years and years. I’ve heard you discussing difficult topics with people – the death of their loved ones, their own imminent passing, talking people gently through their own physical conundrums when they didn’t understand their own doctors or don’t have one, confronting, sympathizing, challenging, questioning, and most of all comforting, comforting, comforting. You’ve got to be one of the most well-suited people on the planet to have around when kids at your clinic need a listening ear. You must weep for them. With them, sometimes, maybe. I’ll bet on that one, too. Maybe you’re the first adult they’ve seen cry for the pain they keep in their hearts.

When I summarize from my own imagination all that you must see to, person to person, you embody that which these young people should have had already. They should have had attentive parents, who watched them, knew their habits, knew what they loved and hated, what made them laugh or feel bad. What kind of people they got along with, and who bedeviled them. They should have had a woman nearby to teach them about their bodies – how things work, how things feel, what to expect, and what to do when things go wrong. They should have had a host of adults around making them feel safe, listening to them, interested in them, honest with them and treasuring their honesty in return. They should have grown up knowing that they could and would do the right thing, and that their family and friends would love and respect them when they didn’t, no matter what. You see the paupers who should have been millionaires. You get wan, squashed dandelions who should have lived like your roses, drowning in love.

Your dandelions don’t know what I know. In the tiny moment they have with you, they have You – all of you – Healer, Friend, Confidante, Guide, Teacher, Mother. For that moment they have the love and regard of a truly brilliant woman who would give her life for them; who would, if you could, turn back time and give them the lifetime of love that they deserve. Remember that they will remember you. Whatever happens in their new life, they knew a lady who took their despair and confusion and gave them a Plan. Touched and treated their bodies and souls as the incalculably precious things that they are. Along with their folder of papers and bag of samples, they carry the memory of a wonderful person who believed them to be a wonderful person too, and that will change who they are forever.