Thursday, November 21, 2013


I traveled north to beautiful Vieux Quebec, Canada, for a vacation I yearned to take following a year of chemotherapeutic and surgical treatment for cancer. As I readied myself for bed after a late evening arrival, I discovered the unthinkable: I had forgotten to pack a tiny part that connects a piece of medical equipment to the urine pouch attached to my body. How would I get through the night without it?

I managed to wake up every two hours to accomplish what the medical equipment would have done for me automatically. I spent hours the next day trying to obtain the tiny part. Canada and the United States do not use compatible equipment, and I came close to using duct tape for the project before finding a more amenable solution.

My dilemma highlighted not only the need to check my packing list twice, especially for international travel, but also my need to truly come to terms with my literal and permanent nighttime tether to things external to my physical self.

And so it was that I came to ponder other tethers in my life.

I reflected on the experience of being fettered to work. I was close to retirement at that point and keenly felt the trussing of my freedom to my job. The truss had several sets of ties: to the alarm clock and to pristine hygiene, to work apparel and to make-up, to rush-hour traffic and to an unattractive work environment. The fact that my job was well paying did not mitigate the constraint; I felt like a songbird in a gilded cage, unable to sing where I wanted to.

I turned the prism and contemplated the tether of obligation to my mother when she was alive. We lived in different cities and no matter how frequently I visited, she invariably remarked, “You should come more often.” The burden is heavy when the standard is never enough. But this tether dissolved with her death. Without the harness of obligation I feel free to need her as my mother. From the Beyond she helps me. Our spiritual bond is profound.

Another turn of the prism illuminated my connection to my daughter. Contrary to the proverbial apron strings, this tether is never cut. Nonetheless she is 28 and happily married, and I have stepped back so that she can live her adult life as she sees fit. The cord between us has thus lengthened and attenuated, and this is as it should be in the natural course of the maternal-child relationship.
The last turn of the prism refracted my relationship with my husband. During my prolonged hospitalization after cancer surgery, I came to depend on him as never before, and in the midst of the arduous recovery I discovered how much I needed him. This newfound knowledge bloomed tenderly in my heart: I realized that needing him arose from deep trust, itself a product of deep love. It is a tie that binds, but one that is wholly welcome.

© Jean DiMotto, 2013   Website:


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