Waiting: The Practice of Patience

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Patience has never been my virtue. I may spend a long time mulling over a life-decision, researching my options, looking for possibilities I might have missed. But once I decide, I am ready for the results NOW. Or better yet, yesterday. When things don't happen on the schedule I prefer, I fret (inwardly at least), pace about, and do whatever I can to move the process along. 

Oh, I can be patient about some things: writing, renovating a house, digging invasive weeds, shaping a garden... Creative stuff, in other words. 

For example, I spent almost 20 years restoring the block of degraded creek that bounded one edge of Terraphilia, our rescued industrial property in Salida, Colorado, and never got frustrated with the very slow process. You can't rush ecological restoration--it happens on nature's timetable, not ours--especially when you are doing most of the work yourself in your spare time, and with no recompense other than the satisfaction of healing one small part of this amazing planet.

I also spent the better part of seven years writing and rewriting the memoir I call Bless the Birds, even starting over from the very beginning to get it just right. 

I thought I was being patient with restoring this gorgeous mid-Century Modern house and yard too. After all, it's taken a year and nine months to go from grimy and neglected dump to photo-worthy and ready for another 60 years. Only my contractor reminded me that others spread a project like this over decades. Oh. "What if I don't live that long?" I countered. "I want to enjoy it now!" 

He looked at me with--dare I say it?--patience, and waited until I heard the irony in my own words. Okay, maybe I wasn't being as patient as I thought. 

My back deck on a sunny September morning

Apparently I need more practice in patience, and that's what life is giving me right now. 

I am (still) waiting for a publisher to pick up Bless the Birds.

I am waiting for a buyer to snap up my wonderful house and yard. 

I am waiting to hear that my friends who are in the way of Hurricane Florence came through okay, waiting for news on Dad's condition, waiting for a check to arrive for a freelance article I wrote, waiting for paperwork for some of Dad's financials, and waiting to hear if a local shoe store can order a pair of boots I need. 

Have patience! I tell myself. And sometimes I listen...

Now Mom, who has been dead for more than seven years, is reminding me of the importance of practicing patience, albeit in her own unique way. I have been having dreams of the you-can't-get-there-from-here sort, where what you need to accomplish is impossible and you wake frustrated and sometimes exhausted from the trying. 

In my dreams, I am charged with shepherding a group of elders including Mom and Dad onto a small passenger ferry that will carry them across a body of water. Only I can't keep the group together to board the boat: they wander in different directions or go off on their own. Even Mom and Dad, who always held hands, don't stick together. It's like herding cats; I wake tense and discouraged.  

And then, about a week before Dad ended up in the hospital were he was eventually diagnosed with terminal lymphoma, I woke from a very different dream: just Mom and me in a hazy dreamscape of puffy clouds, like a Renaissance fresco. Mom is seated (only there is no chair), looking off into the distance and tapping her feet impatiently. She holds out her hand as if to grasp another's hand, turns to me, and says, "He was always slow." I know immediately who "he" is. I start to reply, but she returns to staring into the distance. 

A moment later, she turns to me again, blue eyes snapping, and says, "Tell him to hurry up. I can't wait much longer."

I look off in the direction of her gaze and there is Dad, working his way towards us with slow and wobbling steps, tapping with his blind-guy cane. He turns his head toward us and says, "Where is she? I can't find her." 

"She's right here next to me, Dad." 

He clearly can't see Mom, so I walk over and lead him to her. He reaches out his hand, fumbling for hers, and misses it, so I guide his hand to hers. 

The moment their hands touch, they are gone. Just like that. 

I woke from that dream with a great sense of relief. I'm not the shepherd after all. Mom, it seems, is waiting for Dad. She'll guide him on this transition. 

Mom, waiting for Dad to finish framing the photo, on their honeymoon at Mt Lassen National Park in June, 1952.

Okay, I thought, Mom's telling me to be patient. (There's an irony in that, since she is clearly tired of waiting for Dad to join her wherever spirits go after they leave these bodies. But she's waited eight years--she's entitled to some impatience.) She's reminding me that I don't have to try so hard to make things work; I can trust that all will be well.

I'm working on that. 

I'm also working on being patient with myself. Because I've realized that losing Dad brings up the grief of those other two losses, Mom and Richard, both gone in the same year.

Weathering grief takes time, just as love takes time--and patience.