Why was it so darn important that I got my mom a new phone, and that it worked? Well, of course I want to help her, and of course it didn’t help her to give her a half-working phone, but if you had seen me thrashing around her nursing home room, more frustrated by the minute, when I could have been peacefully visiting her, you’d think I was some kind of crazy person. Even as it was happening, I didn’t know why it was so important. At that point, although she was asking for it, she wasn’t even very interested in using the stupid phone.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that what I was trying to do was to fix the whole situation.
We’d all had a long hard month since the night my mom fell in her apartment, one that had recently included a 911 call, a trip to the the hospital, and now the adventure of rehab. In that time, there was very little that I could DO to fix anything. “Fixing” the problem of providing a phone for my mom took on way too much importance, like it was going to make everything OK. And it really wasn’t.
Fortunately, other people, starting with my mom, are doing the work that will make a difference. The phone is just a nice-to-have, and I’ve learned a little bit about what I can fix, and what I can’t.
Here are some things I learned on my quest to get my mom a new phone for her stay in rehab:
1. There are “pre-paid” phones, but that’s not the same as “pay as you go” phones. Pre-paid includes two different schemes: you pay a flat fee every month, just not with a contract, OR you pay only for what you use (pay as you go.) Then within pay as you go, there are plans in which you pay a high amount, like 25 cents, per minute, and others in which you pay about two dollars for any day you use the phone, no matter how much, and nothing on the days you don’t. And those minutes expire – you can have them longer if you pay more up front, but then you have more to use up.
2. There are fancy-schmancy phones for seniors. You pay much more to have simple operations and some bells and whistles that include medication alarms, a built in 911 that finds you via your cell signal and even, for a fee, access to nurses and doctors. The most popular one is Jitterbug, which costs around $100 for the phone and then has monthly charges on top of that – similar to any other plan until you add the services.
3. Without Jitterbug, it’s easy to find a simple phone. We all like to make fun of our friends with flip-phones (well not all of us, some of us are nicer than others) but the thing about a flip-phone is that you can set it to answer when you open it and hang up when you close it, and that’s an easy thing for someone not used to cell phones. It’s working beautifully for my mom.
4. When you buy a new phone, test it before you leave the store. Dial out from it and dial in to it! The first phone I bought had a defective ringer – it didn’t ring. I spent SO much time reading the manual and searching the web. It became a thing with me – something I would figure out if it killed me. But there was nothing to figure out. It was just broken. I really wish I had figured that out in the store and saved a bunch of trips.
And then I figured out why this was all so important to me. But that’s the next lesson.
I learned yet another lesson the hard way, today. Although I’m finding that’s the way of lessons – most of them and all the valuable ones are learned the hard way. Maybe I should just call it “the way.”
I learned that if I’m meeting someone somewhere in public, I need to make sure that we both know that we are going to check in when we get there, in some way or another, such as a quick text of “here!”
I was meeting Elaine for coffee at a large cafeteria. We were aiming 9:15 and she emailed me that she would text me when she got in. I didn’t have her phone number but I assumed she had mine. She didn’t. I got in early and looked all around for Elaine and sat down where I could see her arrive. Here’s the sad part: she did the very same thing! Somehow we missed each other and missed out of half an hour of our visit – wondering where the other one was.
I have learned that I can handle just about anything if, and only if, I have a stable base on which to stand. And I’ve learned that the elements that build that base, for me, are Sunlight, Activity,and Rest, in that order.
Rest alone doesn’t do it. It seems like it might, but it doesn’t. A string of dark rainy days, followed by sunny days only when I was inside, working, left me with no reserves at all. Every little thing seemed insurmountable and the big things seems downright daunting.
Then I got outside again, popping in and out of shops in a corny Vermont town with Steve, and then back walking up and down hills in the woods with Gale, all in the bright winter sun. Suddenly nothing is that hard any more and everything seems hopeful.
So for the rest of this winter, with our way-too-short days, I’ll be outside gathering whatever daylight I can grab, building the solid base that I need.
If I learned one thing in 2014, it’s that there are lessons to learn around every corner, from every person, every day. But I learned much more than one thing. I have piles of note scraps, memos on my phones, scribbles in the margins of every paper I can see, all of things I’ve learned this year. Now it’s time to gather them together and start sharing again. In the early days of 2015, I’ll be writing up what I’ve learned, and writing as I learn.
I’ll also set out to learn how to overcome the obstacles to posting – mostly my desire to be away from the computer when I’m not working. I’ll have to figure that out. Perhaps you have some ideas? As always, I’d love to learn lessons from you!