I sat in the hospital between my 82-year-old mother who had just had knee replacement surgery and my 88-year-old father who, with failing short-term memory and poor hearing, was clearly struggling to understand why she was here and not home caring for him. It was my birthday and my thoughts were dancing through the karmic spaces: anger at feeling overwhelmed and alone; plenty of self-indulgence; attachment to the idea of being just about anywhere else; and jealousy as I thought of friends who always seemed to spend their birthdays enjoying stress-free weekend getaways.
Hours went by with little to distract me from the dreary scenario. I looked down at my phone and read a text message from my coworker, Judy, letting me know that she was in the same hospital with her mother who had just fallen and fractured her leg. The realization that I wasn’t the only person trying to care for aging parents was very small comfort. I thought of the first noble truth in Buddhism, “Life is suffering,” and the corollary by Ma Jaya, “Never ask why.” Clearly I had no reason for self-pity, or even “Why me?”
S.M. Lawrence, KS