After a year-and-a-half hiatus, I laid back in the dentist's chair.
Next, I gasped.
And not out of fear.
Directly above my head, on the ceiling, was a large poster of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. I actually had taken many photos of the same view in 2010. Staring at it somehow took away the awkwardness of the paper bib and the painfully bright lamp. Remembering our family hiking through the forests made me forget the weirdness of the suction wand. I sure was embarrassed that it took so long for me to come in for a cleaning. Fortunately, my hygienist, Julie, helped me feel at ease. The dentist greeted me with a cheery, "Welcome back!"
I really had no idea that it had been that long. I made up some lame excuse about taking care of my parents and teenagers.
Then, Julie shared her story. She had been taking care of her mother who suffered from stomach cancer on her days off, while also caring for two children under 12--for eight years. We chuckled about why both of us could take better care of our family members than ourselves. "It happens to the best of us," she said. She encouraged me to look on the bright side, which was that I hadn't waited any longer to come in for a check-up! It could have been painful.
Why did such a big chunk of time go by in a flash?
Was it because I moved my parents from their home of 40 years to a one-bedroom apartment exactly one year ago? Was it because I have been been juggling their needs, plus the needs of my 3 high school sons each week? Was it because I thought I didn't have any needs?
Most likely it was all of the above.
As I trek through this Valley of the Senior Shuffle, I can choose to hike the unknown terrain wisely, or foolishly. Sure I might wade through mud, and climb around some big rocks. But I'm just as likely to see some wildflowers along the way.
I want to continue this journey wisely as a daughter, by honoring my parents--and as a mother--by taking good care of myself.
I can carry either a backpack filled with strength and grace, or carry a heavy load of grumbles and self-pity. With strength and grace I can persevere through the valley with the mountain view in sight.
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