Sunday, April 27, 2008

tribute to Mom

Those of you who have known my mom for 20 years or less probably think of her as a sweet little old lady. And indeed she had become just that. However, she didn’t think of herself as sweet, or little or old and neither did I. I’d like to tell you how I will remember Mom.

She was the strongest person I’ve ever known. She believed that she could do anything she put her mind to. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she would say, and she was never lacking in will. When she made up her mind to do something, she did it. She believed that God helps those who help themselves, and she had very little patience with those who had no backbone.

Mom was never a people pleaser nor was she a people judger. “Everyone to their own notion, said the old lady when she kissed the cow,” was another of her favorite idioms. She didn’t infringe on others’ activities nor did she expect them to infringe on hers.

She was truly content in her circumstances and took great pleasure in each day that God gave her. I never heard her express a desire for something that someone else had. She was never jealous of someone else’s accomplishments, their possessions, or their children. She told us frequently that she had the best family any one could have, and that she never wanted us to feel any guilt when she was gone.

Mom was always person of deep faith and even when she wasn’t walking the walk, she was laying the foundation for what would become my world view. I always knew that she believed in God as the Creator of the universe, in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the power of prayer and eternal life with the Father. When she wasn’t going to church herself she still saw to it that I went--first to Sunday school and ultimately to church and church activities.

She was generous. When the girls were little she took them to Disney World and said “I intend to spend my money on them while I’m alive. These are the things they’ll remember.” And spend it she did. She went right on til the day she died. When Jim told her in the hospital that she would be getting back some money from the income tax, she said, “I’m going to put that in my little hidey hole for Christmas.”

Mom couldn’t stand to see someone hungry or homeless, and when approached, she always gave them money. She frequently bought breakfast for some poor old homeless fellow, a regular at McDonalds. We thought maybe she went too far when she started joining him at his table because she knew he was lonely.
She left a living legacy in the people who knew and loved her.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Me--a Caregiver?

I was born in 1946, the first of what would become the most powerful generation of Americans theretofore seen. In the past five years I have become a caretaker for a husband with cancer, an aging mother, and a part time sitter for grandchildren. I know that my experience parallels that of the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, who have survived long enough to be senior citizens. We truly are the sandwich generation, facing a set of problems that have never before been encountered by so many at the same time.

I am not by nature or inclination a servant type personality. I didn’t even enjoy caring for my own children when they were infants. When we brought our first daughter, a colicky, cranky infant, home from the hospital, she screamed and cried every night. I thought “Who is this stranger interrupting my sleep and demanding every minute of my attention?” I wasn’t suddenly overcome with motherly feelings. When our second was born 13 months later, I would carry her downstairs, turn on the oven (no I didn’t put her in it), prop my feet up on the stove, and feed her a bottle while I read whatever book I was engrossed in at the time. At least I held her. I guess that counts for something.

I met their needs but I was not a hands-on, nurturing type of Mom. Even though I stayed at home with them, took care of them when they were sick, fed them nutritious meals, I can’t say I loved the job. I enjoyed it much more when they developed personalities and became somewhat independent. I wasn’t one of those mothers or grandmothers who loved to sit and rock a sleeping baby. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my children. It’s just that I found taking care of them extremely boring.

Knowing how I felt about caregiving with my own children, how I feel about it now should not come as a surprise. So how do you pull it off if you are among many, like myself, who were not born suited to the task?