A Little Compassion Goes a Long Way

My soon to be 92-year old mother, who lives alone in an over-55 community, cannot clearly hear another person’s voice when on the phone or otherwise. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to admit that, so she makes an assumption about what the other person must be saying. Of course, that assumption is usually the response she wants to hear rather than what is actually being said, and therein lays the challenge.

In the most recent episode, she was planning to take a shuttle to my house, a few miles away from where she lives. She had called the shuttle company to schedule her pickup. When the shuttle was a little late, she called them to ask if she should be waiting outside, and “hearing” the reply she was looking for, she went outside to wait.

Eventually, she called the shuttle company back to find out why they hadn’t picked her up yet, but she couldn’t understand what they said. That’s when she called me.

Imagine having a conversation with a nearly 92-year old woman who is emotionally upset and can’t hear what you’re saying.

Somehow we managed to decide that I would call the shuttle company, then call her back, leaving a message on her answering machine, which she can hear. (Yes, my next task is to find a phone for the hearing-impaired for her), but on with the story.

Oh, I forgot to mention that she owns hearing aids, but rarely wears them “¦ you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Anyway, I called the shuttle company and spoke with the shuttle coordinator, and he said that she never called to schedule the pickup, and that this had happened before. He also said that when she called him to ask about waiting outside, he had said to her, “No, the shuttle is not coming because we need a 24-hour notice to schedule a pickup.” She converted that to “yes”.

I left the message on her answering machine to let her know that the shuttle was not coming and that she didn’t hear them correctly.

Later that day, while running an errand, I decided to stop by her house to talk to her. But I was tired after a long busy day in a long busy week, and the closer I got to her place the more I dreaded going there.

My mother and I live in extremely different worlds and have little in common other than being related by blood. She mostly focuses on what’s wrong, while I focus on what’s right. I’ve learned over the years that it’s easier to be quiet and let go than to confront.

As I was making a left turn to the road that would take me to her home, the thought popped into my mind to “go there with compassion.” My tension immediately released.

When I got to her place I related my phone conversation with the shuttle company, and we made a plan for me to find a new hearing-impaired phone system for her, and, in the meantime, I or my brother would make whatever phone calls she needs to make.

Then, remembering that on the phone she had mentioned a problem with her phone, I went to fix it. You are not going to believe this, but she had unknowingly turned the phone volume to low. Duh!

And this was not the first time I have shown her how to fix this problem, but this is the first time she really understood how she was causing it and how to fix it “¦ at least I am hopeful of that outcome.

I stayed for another half hour and listened to her talk about this and that, mostly stuff I’ve heard many times before, but I gave her that space just to unload. When it was time to leave she walked me to the door, and said the most extraordinary thing to me, “You know hugging and kissing are not my thing, that’s the way I was raised, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. You know that don’t you?”

Yes, I know that. Too bad it took so long to reach this place, but better late than never.

Although she is not the warm and fuzzy mom I always wished I had, she is my mother and I love her and would do anything for her. Today I am feeling very grateful for what I do get from her: her strong will, salesmanship, strong body, youthfulness and generosity.

This turned out to be a very good day.








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