I had resisted the urge to get up through the night and had walked into the kitchen to start the coffee. Before I hit the bathroom, the phone rang. ‘Who’s calling this early?’ I said in my mind as I searched for my phone from the prior evening. ‘Hi Cathy, what’s going on?” “Sit down,” she said. I resisted the surge in my mind of the worst possible news. I couldn’t let my mind go there…. I didn’t sit down.
Our brother David, Cathy’s twin, was having emergency surgery to remove a large brain tumor. My mind again, “What? We were just all together having fun two weeks ago at Andy and Duane’s wedding; he was ‘David’, having fun…. Helping…. And I know he was tired… who wouldn’t be after his go-getter and caregiving life style? Deep breathes, Anne, LISTEN…… listen…. and breathe.” Cathy unfolded the news.
I slowly realized that David had another battle to fight. I’m glad he is competitive. Now is the time to use that competitive streak as a MAJOR strength. Fight….. he does….fight... he is… it could be his middle name: David Fight-Lee Todd.
Background… Leisa, his wife, is living with early onset Alzheimers. She is at home; she’s always been quiet, trying to keep up with ‘the Louds.’ We Todd’s have historically been loud; we talked over each other as our excitement grew. Not everyone could be in several conversations at once. Over my 60 years, I have heard David ask me, as I answer a question or add my perspective to a conversation at my opposite side or across the table/room,“Anne, you can’t be in two conversations at once.”
Well, turns out, he was right. Everyone talking at once is not the greatest way to communicate. Leisa is teaching us that. “Just sit and be still,” she responded when David asked how to rest or how to slow down. Now is the time. Now is his time. Brain cancer dictates it. Being close to a 63-year old brother, who was having headaches, and now has endured two brain surgeries to remove the tumor requires me to be still. He has 36 staples shaped as a question mark around his right ear and has been asking a lot of questions since then!
Listening……He’s a ‘TODD.’ He knows how to set his mind to something and go for it… get ‘er done. His heart is strong; his heart is optimistic; his heart is with his wife, who is simply happy sitting and watching the birds as she rocks in her rocking chair. I was sitting outside with Leisa for an hour a few weeks ago. She shushed the dogs when they barked. I resisted jumping in and helping her quiet them down; David was napping. She didn’t need the help and I needed to practice pausing and being quiet. All I said during that hour was that I loved listening to the birds. Listening can be done. Todd’s can be quiet and still. It’s needed as a reflective thing.
We all need the quiet routines… that is what function meditation serves. I do yoga; I write; I knit. David reflects and listens to God; I reflect and listen to nature. No judging how we do it… just do it!
I think about events of my previous years and how they impacted me. As the youngest, I saw and heard a lot. I survived a lot of teasing. Over time, I have been able to turn those experiences into learning opportunities about why I think and react the way I do. I’ve labeled my triggers for happiness, serenity and anxiousness. I recently shared some of those with David, Andy and Cathy. David’s expression of ignition in relating his experiences to what I said was absolutely heartwarming.
It’s a new chapter. David and Leisa have lived may years being victims of a persistent disease. All of us have watched David as he has navigated the changes needed in his behavior---- his responses--- his desire to protect dignity. It’s hard; it’s relentless, and its’ more severe with time.Through my observations, I have learned a lot about perspective, acceptance, less judgment.
Leisa need and wants to be STILL- enjoy the moment- no bad news- possibly no news at all. My brother honors those needs, embraces those needs and meets those needs as best he can… all the while… surviving prostate cancer, being a great dad and papa, always giving to his family, community and church. Then at the end of a tiring-caregiving day, he has time for himself; his exhausted self. Many caregivers are familiar with this scenario…. Go go go, do do do, give give give. David, Cathy, Andy and I learned this well while taking care of our mother who had 32 major surgeries during her 76 years. It is who we are! Our passions are to help people do the best with what they have and be happier as a result.
Now it is time to pause, breathe, be quiet, listen to nature, to others and to our hearts. As I left him after his first brain surgery, he told me, ‘go be with your family… you need to be with them.’ I think he was practicing self-talk! We need to slow down enough to notice our opportunities, honor those opportunities, and live like David and Leisa…. Honor each day we have.
Each day is different; we embrace it, listen and hear our father. “Do the best with what you have and call me when you have better news,” pause, be still, and then as loud as you can, yell…. ‘WORLD.’ David, I watch you in awe…. with all the changes going on, you continue to do the best with what you have and that includes that question-mark scar asking how to slow down and listen. It is time to give yourself the gift of listening, slowing down and being with your loved ones. Your impact on our hearts is rich and warm. Now, pause, breathe, yell WORLD, be still and listen to your heart.