Even when we are feeling depressed or when we get angry at others, there are those who inspire and encourage us. My beautiful sister-in-law, Cindy, is one of those people.
As a dutiful daughter-in-law, she has taken on the care of my 96, soon-to-be 97, year-old mother on and off for the last couple of years. She has done it with kindness and loving care, without feeling put-upon or angered by the burden. And as all of us who have had to care for an elderly parent know, it is a heavy burden. Sometimes it is a pleasure to have an elderly relative living in the house or close by. Other times, not so much.
Cindy’s latest blogs on “I Choose” provided me with an entirely new perspective on caring for my mother. ( https://www.facebook.com/cindy.castillo.3344 ) Cindy is neither bitter nor cynical, angry nor resentful. She chooses each day to see the goodness in the situation and the benefit of having my mother with her. I admire her ability to remain kind and loving the whole time.
As I look back on my mother’s time with me, I realize that I had allowed ancient wounds and a life-time of petty grievances to color my attitude toward Mom. Perhaps as an outsider, Cindy can see a situation without the overlay of years of built up resentment. But still the problems that crop up day-by-day can become an irritating ‘burr under the saddle.’
Not for Cindy. Even when Mom’s husband Al was in residence, Cindy kept her equanimity. Albeit strained at times, her sweet and loving patience survived. My mother’s husband, let me be quick to add, NOT my father, has some incredibly irritating habits. At 85, he is a tall, lanky, tennis player who loves to follow the tennis circuit—North in the Spring, and South in the Fall. Since my mother’s family used to be Snowbirds as well, she is used to it and comfortable with the constant upheaval. They don’t own homes but rent a room in a house wherever they are. It’s an odd lifestyle but they are happy with it.
Al loves to collect things. He reads voraciously, going through every newspaper that is available every day. And that means the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the USA News, the Chronicle, and whatever other local newspaper there is. He collects them from the hotels in the area. No, not buying them, just picking them up. Then he leaves them crumpled and piled in heaps around their room. Mom periodically sweeps them all up and puts them in trash bags.
Cindy also periodically comes into their room to clean, something which must trigger an ancient guilt reaction in my mother. Mom insists she can clean the room herself and doesn’t need someone to do it for her. Although Mom can no longer see well enough to do a thorough job, and certainly can’t hoist the corners of the bed up to put on the fitted sheets, she gets angry when Cindy ‘invades’ the room to clean. Thank goodness for Cindy’s equanimity. My brother put his foot down and insisted Mom let Cindy clean. It is her house, after all. Not me. If Mom wanted to clean her room here, I let her.
Far worse for Cindy, however, are the piles of food husband Al brings in from dumpsters. It irritates him beyond endurance to see grocery stores throwing away perfectly good food that just happens to be a little out-of-date, or crates of fruits or vegetables with one or two rotten or broken pieces. He and mom then dine on brown-ish bananas, rescued yogurt, crushed cheeses, not-yet-moldy bread, and a dozen other almost-perfectly-good items of food. They haven’t gotten sick, yet, although I suspect a few bouts of diarrhea have resulted.
Gift-like, the crates or boxes of food items appear on our doorsteps. Much like the dead rats that our cats tend to share with us as proof of their hunting abilities, and their love for us, I’m sure, Al brings in piles of food. Along with the food, of course, come cockroaches and bugs of various sorts. Cindy, who has spent her life keeping houses clean, has a righteous horror of such creatures. Not surprising that she has the Pest Control man on speed-dial.
Cindy and my brother have partially solved the problem by installing a large, spare refrigerator in the garage just for Al’s treasures. Now that Al has gone north for the summer, and left Mom with Cindy, the bulging largesse in the refrigerator has returned to its normal destiny in the garbage cans.
Despite all the trials of having Mom there, and they are numerous, Cindy maintains her pleasant and loving attitude. It’s an attitude which I admire, but have yet to emulate. I wish I could.
Thank you, Cindy, for your kind and loving care of my mother.