My friend, Marlene, was in town this week for the first time since she moved back to Ohio about six months ago. We met at the little and funky Peach Café in Monrovia (try it, you’ll like it) and had a happy three and a half hour visit.
I’ve missed her. She was one of the few friends close enough to Pomona that we could get together once in a while in the five years since I moved back. Initially, when I was so busy taking care of both Daddy and Mother, she and I met about every six months, but in the last two years before she left, we’d upped our times out to several times a year, which made it hard when she said the job interview in Columbus had worked out and she was headed to Ohio.
For our last lunch together last summer, we met at our favorite Sunday lunch-after-church-meeting-place, Macaroni Grill. She was all ready to leave town and this was our farewell. She came bearing gifts, which is so like Marlene. She’s gracious and giving.
“Since your friends in California are losing you to Ohio, we should be sending you off with gifts, not the other way around.” I said as I opened the greeting card.
“Oh,” she replied in typical modest, Marlene fashion, with a smile on her face, “that’s so sweet.”
She even picked up the bill, which was very generous and made the parting even tougher. It was sad knowing that one of my links to the outside world was going and our Sunday lunches ending.
A few months before she left, we’d gone into Hollywood to the Pantages Theatre to see “Wicked” and then out dinner at one of her favorite Italian restaurants, Villa Italiana in Duarte (another good place to try if you’re in the area). It was a fun and stimulating evening.
Sometime after that, Marlene, her roommate, three of their friends and I caught the commuter bus that took us to the Hollywood Bowl one night for the L.A. taping of “Prairie Home Companion.” What a fun time that was sitting in the cool evening breeze as the sun set and the lights of the Bowl stage came on.
I felt young and alive and engulfed in one of life’s things of beauty. It was a peaceful enjoyment of a carefree night, so far away from my world of an elderly Mother, our church with its mostly elderly people and the several elderly neighbors who live on our street. That night I felt like I had been struggling underwater but at last had come up for air and was able to drink deeply of its life-giving force.
Meeting Marlene for lunch this week on her short visit to get her furniture packed up in the truck her brother and sister in law would drive back to Ohio, was another one of those breaks from the world of caregiving and the elderly.
As we left, we hugged each other goodbye and got into our cars to drive in opposite directions, the early afternoon sun shining and warming up the winter day to nearly 80 degrees after several weeks of freezing temps at night and cool days. I once again felt alive and hopeful that life most likely held much more for me than living with my elderly mother.
It’s often a tug of war. On the one hand, I can’t imagine being anywhere else than here with Mother. How could I possibly go, knowing that would mean she would be forced to leave her home? I’m not sure her days would continue very long if that were the case.
On the other hand, there are limits to what I can do with my days because she needs me here. Times of escape for a meal out with a friend are rare. Yet in the middle of that tug of war, I am amazed at what God has done by putting me here. He’s handed me the financial means and the time to learn a new craft and to develop a new skill: writing. Somehow in the middle of that new skill is the knowledge that my world doesn’t end where these walls end. Writing transcends these boundaries. I’m grateful to know that. But even that knowledge pales in comparison to the other thing God is doing. He’s teaching me much in the day to day living and caring for my elderly Mother. He’s teaching me again, in this new situation, that He is the solution for every worry, every care and every unknown.
Who of us truly knows where our lives will go next or how long those lives will last? We don’t. But, what I do know is that God is the giver of life and life isn’t just bright moments of release from caregiving, it’s a bigger purpose and a greater design than I could possibly imagine. I’m in His hands, just as my dear friend, Marlene, is in His hands. Because of that, both of us can go freely, wherever life takes us next. See you in the unknown future, Marlene!