I wrote a blog post a bit ago, contemplating my visit to see Minga for the first time since her dialysis began, about how our roles have changed. During the Peace Corps years, she was motherly to me. I doubt she saw it that way. I think she was simply horrified at my lack of skill in all the basic things needed for daily life in the village, and afraid that if she didn’t intervene I’d eat a spoiled can of Spam and die right on her doorstep. During the two years our relationship evolved to something more like girlfriends — a relationship not available to her with other Panamanian women her age because they all had so many children to tend and no time for each other. We were also partners in the small economic projects I was trying to initiate. Minga is really smart, and she really knew the community — and I didn’t. I brought one set of skills, but she brought several crucial other skills that made the two years much more meaningful in the life of the village than anything I could have done on my own.
Now, I feel our relationship shifting, as she is the one in need of comfort and solace and support as well as advocacy — mothering, in other words.
I was touched one afternoon at the hotel when, unprompted, she gave me a hug and said, “Now, you are mother to me.” Her mind had moved in the same direction as mine.
Longtime relationships evolve, don’t they, as our needs and the touch points in our lives change? A healthy relationship is never static, never one-sided. If we think of life as a stage play, sometimes one thing is in the foreground, sometimes another. If we’re in a good enough place emotionally and spiritually, we let that change happen, follow the flow, and make something new to reflect the need of the times.
This is my favorite pic from the trip, although it isn’t the most smiling or energetic. This was after dinner on the first full day I was there. We’d weathered the blowup from her daughter, who’d finally left. I’d gotten used to seeing Minga with that huge bandage at her neck which covers the catheter through which she receives dialysis. Dinner was just Minga, Lily, and me — Lily took the pic. We’d eaten a nice meal. I’d had a glass of wine. We were relaxing, in no hurry to leave and go back upstairs to our rooms. We’re leaning toward each other, settling in. I can almost hear our shared exhale, and a big sigh.
Wherever we are now, whatever we have to adjust to — kidney failure and dialysis — it’s OK. We’re OK. Amigas para siempre, women friends forever, and it’s OK…