The kindness of strangers.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I just need to put this out there for those times when I doubt what I'm going to say is true. The Universe, or God, or whatever higher power you may or not believe in, really does have a way of pulling things together sometimes.
Many of you know I have been struggling with caring for my mother, who lives alone, 1,200 miles away from me in Florida. She has been suffering with depression, severe anxiety, and now we suspect also some signs of dementia. She has been getting herself into car accidents and trouble with the police and has been bringing herself closer and closer to the brink of total financial ruin. It has been a struggle for me to make sure she is getting the care she needs.
Yesterday she was in a car accident. Luckily no one was hurt, but she was issued a citation and her car was badly damaged and required a tow. From that moment, I swear the Universe has been looking out for her in every way.
Her insurance agent drove to the scene of the accident to speak with police, arrange the tow, and drive her to get a car rental. My mom, in hysterics, had the presence of mind to stop at an IHOP she frequented often with my stepfather, when he was still living there. The waitress recognized her and watched over her until she was calm enough to leave, which was several hours. (So, if we're keeping score - the kindness of strangers tally is up to two so far: the insurance agent and now the waitress.)
My mom managed to make it home last night and we agreed that she should probably not be driving at this point until she has additional tests to find out what is or isn't going on with her, physically. This would be a huge challenge, as my mom's anxiety had kept her from meeting ANY new people in her neighborhood at all, in the entire 9 months she has been living there.
This morning I called the clubhouse in the gated community where she lives and spoke with the receptionist, hoping she might be able to post a note on a message board that my mom needed a ride to her psychiatrist's office on Saturday. The doctor is an hour's drive from where my mom lives, so including waiting for her at the office, it would be three hours out of a stranger's day to help her out. The receptionist at the office said she would see what she could do and call me back.
She just called me back and not only is she herself going to take my mom to the doctor's appointment on Saturday, but she contacted a women's group at the clubhouse who specifically works to help people who are there alone to get rides to appointments and such so that my mom could get a ride to another appointment on Monday. And, when she found out my mom was recently divorced and living alone and would be alone on Christmas, she told me she would spread the word so that her neighbors would check in on her during that time. I think Ruth at the Lakes of Mount Dora gets about 50 gold stars in the kindness of strangers count.
My mom finally has a psychologist that she not only trusts, but who has been responsive to me and keeps me in the loop on her care. She has a very well-respected psychiatrist, and after speaking with his receptionist I feel she is in very good hands there. And I spoke with someone at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in my mom's area, who has offered to send me documentation about elder care so that my mom can continue to live alone, but still have someone check in on her to make sure she is eating, taking care of the house, etc.
At this point I've completely lost count on the kindness of strangers tally, but I just want to say this, because there is a lesson here: Know when to ask for help. If you know what you need, and then you ask for it, I truly believe you will find what you're looking for. Every time.
Sure, we all want to go at things alone. I don't know if it's a matter of pride, or not wanting to burden someone else, or just thinking no one else knows how to do it right. It doesn't really matter. But once we admit we're not superpeople and we reach out our hands for that pick-me-up, it's amazing what can happen.
And this is, I think, highly appropriate to post on a dieting website because the lesson applies here, too. If we knew how to work out and eat right and take care of our bodies without help, we wouldn't be here. But how many of us are trying to do it alone? How many of us are holding our weight loss goals close to our hearts in fear that if we don't do it ourselves, we wouldn't be able to face the world as a failure? How many of us give up before we start because it just felt too hard? Well, I'm here to say that if you reach out to someone - even a total stranger - for help, you'll never be a failure. And better still, you'll never be alone.