If you’ve been following for a while now, you may remember that we don’t get along. But circumstances are what they are, and despite our challenging relationship, moving her here was our only option. I’ll spare you the details, but here are the facts you need to follow along: her husband is in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s. She broke her hip in December. She is an insulin-dependent (Type 1) diabetic. Her dementia has advanced to the point where can no longer be left unattended. Ever.
So here we are.
The decision was a hard one to make. My husband and I both knew what we had to do, but because of our past, I don’t think he felt like he could ask that of me. So I let him off the hook, and I posed the question. The answer was an immediate “yes,” and we set about preparations immediately, before either of us had a chance to really think about what we were doing, and change our mind.
We cleared out a room, converted it to a bedroom for her, and moved her in to our house.
I was angry. For years I watched her deal with her husband’s dementia without an ounce of patience, belittling and demeaning him in front of others (even my children), and now I was rolling out the red carpet for her. She was given beautiful accommodations, home cooked meals delivered to her at the table, and was spoken to with kindness and respect. It didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t fair.
I tried, I really tried, to open my heart and put my feelings aside, but I just couldn’t. When she asked the same questions over and over, I flashed back to the way she treated him, and even though the words I spoke were calm and non-confrontational, they were filled with bitterness. Karma hadn’t gotten it right.
(Thanks, Enlightenment Ain’t for Sissies, for the Karma Wheel.)
Then one Sunday, the story of Jesus and the lepers was read in Mass, and the homily centered on Jesus loving the Unloveables. “Who are the Unloveables in today’s world?” the priest asked. He talked about loving, in an active way, those who are hard to love. He pointed out the obvious – the homeless, AIDS patients, those who are different from you, those who scare you. Then he challenged us to think about our own world, and who our Unloveables are. And to reach out to them. To love them anyway.
I tried. I tried to be more patient. I tried to speak more gently. But I just wasn’t there yet.
I was still waiting for her to love me back.
As days turned into weeks, I knew I needed an internal reconciliation. Something had to change, and the change had to be within me. I prayed. I sought counsel from friends. I wrote thousands of words, trying to put them in the right order to get me where I needed to be.
I knew I was getting closer, but I still wasn’t there yet. I continued to search the archives of my mind and my heart for some reference to give me what I needed.
Along the way I thought about an old blog post from my friend Mike. (Mike, send me the URL so I can link it here!) He wrote of Sacrificial Love, and his reflections mirrored that homily a few weeks prior, that we as Christians are called to love beyond what’s easy, to love sacrificially.
And then it flashed through my mind. I thought about the Golden Rule, the philosophy so universal it exists in Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
And the Truth I had been searching for hit me. I was still waiting to receive. And that had held me back from giving. Whether or not it was ‘fair’ was not for me to consider. My duty – to God, to my husband, and to myself – was to treat her the way I wanted her to treat me, not the way she actually did treat me.
For twenty-six years I had shown her love, and had been waiting for her to return it. On that day I accepted the fact that it wasn’t going to come. The time for that had passed. In her condition, she was no longer capable of opening up to anything new. It was all about me now, and how I behaved towards her.
It was time for me to give love in its purest form, in sacrifice, expecting nothing in return.
For only then could I turn to God and say that I’d done my best. Only then could I ask Him to do unto me as I had done unto others.
I’m Lisha, a middle-aged mother of three boys, and wife to wonderful husband. I love to cook, water my garden and write. In my spare time, I work part-time, tend to the needs of my husband’s parents, manage of our rental properties, and volunteer at my kids’ schools.
Our version of “Happily Ever After” takes place in the suburbs of New Orleans, where we try to find joy in the midst of chaos in a home with three kids. We try to infuse knowledge into our everyday activities, set a good example for others, and live by the values of our Catholic faith. We have been blessed abundantly, and share that abundance when we can.
The Trailblazer (also known as The Firstborn, College Boy): This one has garnered “favorite son” status because he is now old enough to buy wine. The others will have their turn someday, but for now he holds the distinction. He’s a student at LSU, figuring out how to spread those wings mom and dad have been giving him. Our secret wish for him is the same wish all parents have for their kids: to have one child EXACTLY like him — who knows everything about everything.
Slick (also known as The Middle Child): Obviously a strategic thinker, he has decided to attend college out of state and near the beach. Blessed with cool hair and a quick wit, I’m sure he’ll make the most of the experience. He was once described by a teacher as “the funniest kid he’d ever met.” I’m sure that will serve him well someday. Or get him kicked out of school.
The Caboose (also known as The Little Guy): A 13-year old American Idol hopeful with dyslexia. (That makes homework a boatload of fun!) The Caboose is often on the receiving end of things from his brothers: advice, abuse, and hand-me-downs. He tolerates them well, and when he’s the only kid left at home and we have all our money to spend on him, he’ll have the last laugh.
Mr. Wonderful: My college sweetheart and husband of 27 years. An Italian boy with some hang-ups about his mother (think Everybody Loves Raymond…) who served in the military for 25 years, including a one-year vacation in Baghdad. A builder of awesome treehouses and my personal IT guy, he is the Yin to my Yang.
Perro: The four-legged family member we rescued a few years ago. I love him because he’s the only male in this house who makes eye contact with me when I speak.
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To contact The Lucky Mom, send me an email to happinessengineer (at) yahoo (dot) com.