The healing powers of anticipation

My 93-year-old mom insisted on having hip-replacement surgery.

“You might die on the table,” the doctor said.

“I don’t care!” She jutted her chin at the man. “I’m sick of the pain.”

That my mother would eventually win the argument was no surprise. People who know Mary Anne stopped disagreeing with her years ago. There’s simply no point. She’s always right.

She’d had the other hip done 11 years earlier with no complications, so she was shocked when she recovered from the anesthesia and was overwhelmed with pain and nausea. She refused to take pain medication and claimed that the surgery had been botched.

I explained that recovery would take time and she needed to reconsider the pain meds. She had in-home nursing and physical therapy, professionals who repeatedly reminded her that it might be months before she would feel better.

Prior to the operation, I had tried out for a play. When I got a part, I explained to my mom that I would be required to attend rehearsals. She insisted that I not let her surgery get in the way. So, I went home.

Mom struggled. Not only with the pain but with my 95-year-old dad. He’s in perfect health, and can tell you vivid stories about World War II and growing up in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. But he can’t recall what you asked him to do ten seconds earlier.

The caregivers knew to call me, if I could be of some assistance. I spoke with my mom and dad on the phone. My brother came down to help out for a while. Still, I felt guilty for not being there.

Last weekend, the Starlight Community Theater production of the musical comedy Company ended its eight-show run. Both my mom and dad were in the audience, the first time they’ve seen me perform in a play in over 40 years.

Company Me, Mom, Ry and Dad

My mom had healed enough to ditch her wheelchair for a walker and attended the last performance of Company with my Dad and sweetie pie Ryan.

It was not until I returned to their home in Tucson that I would learn how the play helped my mother heal. As I was leaving the independent-living facility, a woman stopped me.

“How’s your mom doing?” she smiled.

“Feisty as ever. I just brought them home. They came up to Phoenix to see me perform in a show.”

“The play. Yes, I know.” She stared for a moment. “When your mom first started rehab she was depressed and stopped eating.”

“Really?”  No one had told me.

“Then she announced that she would be attending your play. And she started eating again and doing her exercises.”

“I had no idea.”

On the drive home, I wondered whether my mom would have rebounded had she not had the play to look forward to. While I don’t know the answer, I realized the importance of looking ahead to something that gives us joy. Anticipation is a dying art in our instant-gratification world. Perhaps, we should practice the emotion more often.



Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold. 

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