Aside from the 70 degree temperature swing, I have another big shift to adjust to between my Minneapolis trip and the trip to Panama City. In Minneapolis, I stepped back into my professional role to lead a strategic planning board retreat. I was “on” for a late afternoon Friday and all day Saturday professional experience. I’d prepared and practiced, but still had to be alert for the unexpected — which sometimes breaks through at these things.
In Panama City, I have one goal: to sit quietly and listen to Minga, to be present to her as she shares what this year of dialysis has been like, how she has adjusted to living in the city — something she once said she would never do — and what she hopes for her life going forward. Those are thoughts that many of us would prefer to exchange with an age peer, someone whose feelings we don’t need to protect. Minga’s offspring are certainly not “children” in any sense of the word. Ana, the eldest, is 65. But Minga is still protective of them, and she knows — because they tell her over and over — that they are not ready to come to terms with her mortality, not ready to consider the fact that she will die.
It’s not that I find talking about death easy, nor do I suppose anyone does. But I am the one most likely to be able to have that conversation with Minga, and I’m ready to take on the role.
We won’t spend all of our time on somber matters. If the rain holds off, I’ve invited fifteen year old Miley and two of her friends to come and swim at the hotel pool. Miley is a lovely young woman, and her excited energy will buoy us all. If rain prevents the use of the outdoor pool, we’ll go to the mall. Drivers in Panama City are easy to hire, especially during November which is not peak tourist season. I’ll give each of the girls $20. Minga has a $20 birthday gift from Tia Phyllis. And I’ll probably slip Ana and Lily their $20 too. That would make for a fun afternoon.
Pics and reflections to come.