Leave The Guilt Behind
I showcased the film, Still Mine in our latest January Newsletter. The movie is well worth taking the time to watch, without guilt, of course!
That said, I am the first to understand how impossible it is to find the time to do anything, much less sitting down to watch a movie. As caregivers, we barely have time to tie our shoelaces before sprinting out of bed in the morning to start our day. The tape that loops insistently in my mind says, “Watching a movie or TV drama is an undeserved luxury, Vic. Get off your ars. Mom needs you, plus there’s that list of to-do's you must do! Go, go, GO!!”
At least now I finally recognize how wrong that old tape is and can immediately put the kibosh on it. At least now I know that taking the time to read, listen, or watch something of value can be extraordinarily helpful and meaningful. I am also sometimes lucky enough to hear this ethereal, wee little voice saying, “Don’t miss this one,” and I heed its counsel. I have yet to regret doing so. Still Mine is one of those films I was glad I didn’t let guilt get in the way of watching.
Still Mine is relatable to us caregivers for obvious reasons. However, one scene that struck the strings of my heart I would like to share with you (that is not a spoiler).
Craig, one of the main characters in the movie, was sitting alone at his dining room table he built over fifty years earlier. He made it out of pine and had put twelve coats of varnish on it. Over the years, the table took on the markings of accidental spills, dents, and even ghost writings of his children’s homework because they failed to put anything underneath the paper they were writing on. Craig remembered how he took these mishaps as a personal assault on his workmanship. Now, decades later, he could run his fingers over the “scars” like reading memories from Braille. Craig could open his eyes to see and reminisce the cherished markings of his life with Irene, his wife, and his kids. What was once a source of frustration and upset was now seen as precious memories he could no more sand down and varnish over than fly to the moon.
I think the irony of this scene is so poignant because, conversely, Irene can no longer remember those eternal memories fixed within their table. Her dementia has sanded down and varnished over her past, which is disappearing forever.
There is always something to reflect on when I set aside the guilt and take the time to see those hidden treasures that might be in reading a book or watching a movie. Why? Because its wisdom always serves me for the future.
I also would not have received another gift had I not taken the time. When Still Mine was over, and the credits rolled, there to the left of the TV, perfectly framed by my small window, was a pine tree I had removed and replanted from the garden of my childhood home. The backdrop of that tree was the hues of today’s sunrise.
While I sat there taking in the movie, its story, its message, the sunrise, and considering my own memories of Mom before dementia, something was nudging at me, something I was missing or failing to bring into focus. Then I heard my Dad’s unique voice say, “Thanks for taking care of Mare, Vic.” I took a sudden breath in. I sat there a bit stunned. Did I hear that right? Dad?
“No problem, Pops,” I quietly answered.
The movie was beautiful enough, but that exchange with my father did this kid in.
What Is True For Me
After years of wrestling with guilt and the “I don’t have the time” baloney, I now remind myself if I do not take the time, I am depriving myself of experiences and lessons that will enrich my life, not hinder it.
Now, I do not miss the movie, and I read the book, listen to the lyrics of a song, an interview, or a seminar. In the many years I have been caring for my Mother, I have learned to trust there is help and wisdom in all things if I remain quietly attentive in my search. I take the time and leave the guilt behind.
Our “Things That Help” section in Forgive and Forget offers stories and ideas that have enriched my mind and heart one way or another. Yep, even the paradox of Breaking Bad and Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor documentary has a thing or two to teach us.