“Kids, I want to take a picture of you together before the doll heads off for school” I said this morning; the last day of 5th grade for the doll. This is a yearly tradition, taking a picture at the start and finish of the school year together, just to show how much they have changed over the “short” year. The boy who had not yet dressed yelled, “Wait, let me get some clothes on first…” to which both the doll and I said, “YES! Please put some clothes on!” I stood there, trying to get them to stand next to each other, long enough to snap the picture and thought, “Wow, time has moved so fast…soon my babies will be grown up and gone….” After the pictures were taken, the boy hugged his sister (much to her dislike) and then me and laughed; reminding me I still have time with them…so long as I don’t blink too fast.
I have a friend, with whom I met on twitter. We’ve talked, skyped and even shared a nice day at a waterfall together. One could say we’ve developed a nice friendship. She lives in Tennessee, about an hour south east from where my mother in law use to live. So, when we moved my mother in law back north last summer, I made the point of driving over and meeting her-with the kids in tow; one afternoon. The kids loved her two dogs, Tootsie and Spaz (the boy’s made up name for her dog) and we all had a wonderful time visiting. “Everyone thinks I’m nuts, bringing my kids here to meet you…” I told her. “Well you tend to develop a sense I think, about just who you’re talking to…I’m glad you’re here.” My friend put her life on hold to help her father, take care of her ill mother. What began as her driving up from her home in Florida on the weekends to help, became a permanent move when she realized, her father, was overwhelmed. As she likes to say, “One weekend I drove up and I’ve been here ever since.” Then her father inexplicably died, leaving her the sole person in charge of her mother’s care. My friend could have easily put her mother in a long term care facility and went back home to her life in Florida. But instead she stayed put; taking care of her mom the best she could; finding some escape via twitter and other forms of distraction.
From the moment I got to know her, I’ve been blown away (blessed really) by her generosity of spirit. I don’t know many people who are willing to give up their livelihood-their businesses and home; to care for a parent. As someone who works with the elderly on a daily basis; I know the difficulty a family faces when a loved one falls ill. With the women I help, they are blessed by large families, to help offset the overall burden. My friend really had no one, save herself. Though she hired caretakers to help-so she could run errands to the store or attend doctor appointments, she was the one responsible for all other aspects of her mother’s care. “One of these days, I’ll remember what it’s like to sleep in a bed-not on a couch” she told me last summer with a laugh. One cannot help but respect her for what she was doing for her mom.
Three weeks ago she told me her mom was failing. “She’s stopped eating and I’m trying to get a doctor to come here and check her out” she said. “Okay so are you thinking of putting her in hospice?” I asked. “Hmm, I really hadn’t thought of that aspect..” she replied. When the doctor finally arrived, he declared her time was short and ordered Hospice to come in. Yesterday in a nice quiet post, she confirmed her mother’s death. While I know she is relieved to have her mother’s suffering end, the life that she has come to know has ended too. To be standing at a crossroad, trying to figure out your next step must be daunting, yet exhilarating at the same time.
“Mama” the boy began, “Yes?” I replied. “I love you!” he finished. He tells me this several times a day–sometimes even without trying to ascertain something from me (junk food). “I know bay…the feeling is mutual” I returned. “Mama?” “What?” “I hope your friend can find some peace now.” the boy conveyed. “I think she will….it’s just hard when seemingly lifetime commitments come to an end.” I said. “But it hasn’t ended, not really.” He said. Giving him a curious look he then elaborated his idea, “When Papaw died, that didn’t stop us from thinking about or laughing with our memories of him, right?” “True…” I replied. “His commitment to us then is still alive…” Smiling at my wise old son, I replied “I suppose your right”. “I hope our friend remembers that too. But if not, eh, at least she’ll have her dogs to help her through…” He finished in typical boy fashion. His mother, very proud and grateful, she has a lifetime commitment with him.