So with apologies for borrowing this phrase from the great James Taylor (who entertained me at my very first concert when I was in high school and continues to do so these many years later), I know of no better time of the year to remind the people I am lucky enough to have in my life how very much I appreciate and love them.
It’s been a tough month around here with my mother recovering from a bad fall the day after Thanksgiving. I have been taking care of her as she is on the mend but, as we all know or should know, you can’t really take care of someone else well unless you take care of yourself first. (A lesson I learned from my high school buddy, Mary McKenna, many years ago who reminded me that when you’re on a plane there’s a reason the flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help someone else put on theirs). And that I can continue to help my mother with the daily activities we all take for granted (until we lose our ability to manage them on our own) is due in no small part to my sister, Barbara.
She comes to our place several times each week, always bringing a meal and some of her delicious home-baked cookies or pumpkin bread. (Mind you, she does this after putting in a long day at her regular full-time job). She takes over everything and sends me off to bed so I can get a good night’s sleep. (And having slept on the couch for a month now so I can be close by my mother during the overnight hours, I can assure you that sleeping in my own bed has become the equivalent of going on a vacation). She stays calm when I get rattled, she makes the calls I somehow don’t get to, she sets up our appointments when I need help with them, and she has organized and streamlined our living space to make it easier for my Mom to navigate. She has been my life-preserver and my Mom’s rock and I am ever so grateful.
My brother-in-law has been so much help to us as well. Although my sister spends so much time here, he has been nothing but gracious and supportive of the gift of her time to us. He has lugged furniture around, put things together, run to stores, taken out the trash and recycling, and brought my nephew over to spend time with my Mom, a gesture I don’t know if he realizes how much she appreciated.
When my mom was in the emergency room on that awful day she fell, I was lucky that my other sister and my cousin, both visiting from New York for Thanksgiving, were there for the emotional support I needed as I listened to the doctor explain what had happened and how long her recovery period would be. And a few days later, my sister, Barbara and my cousin, Karen whipped through our house cleaning and scrubbing and washing and organizing like the mice from Cinderella when the rest of us were so exhausted from being up all night trying to make my mother more comfortable managing the awful pain she was experiencing.
My friends, my cousins, my DC girls all have checked in on me, asked what they can do, offered support, listened to me gripe and grouse when I needed to, sent me notes of encouragement, offered up prayers and formed my village. Their loyalty is unending, their love a gift beyond words.
My great kid stayed as long as he could after the fall and then came back a few days later and spent the better part of a week helping us out here. Having him here with me, having him give me a hug when I need it, words of encouragement when I get frustrated or tired, a shoulder to cry on when the tears come mean more to me than I can ever let him know. No longer a boy but a man with a big heart, a heart filled with compassion, kindness, a sense of responsibility and a desire to take care of those he loves. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for my mother or me, just as there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my mother or him. He knows that family comes first, which not everyone is blessed to be able to say.
And although they are not here physically any longer, my darling Dad and the man I loved (who left this world far too soon) both live in my heart and influence what I do each day. My Dad was the person in our family, our extended family even who was there during not just the good times but the hard, difficult, awful times and I only have to think “what would he do in this situation” to get myself back on track when I feel lost. And my love accomplished so much good in too short a life and I try to remember that instead of mourning his loss. I remember that I need to celebrate his life and the fact that he and I found each other and had more joy than I had a right to expect. When people still live in your heart, that’s not a bad thing at all. Just because I can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not here.
Despite what she has gone through this past month – and likely will still go through as she begins a painful rehabilitation process – my Mom continues to awe and amaze me with her positive attitude, her belief in God, her generosity of spirit, her hope for the future, her love for all of her family and friends. This has been tough on her, being in pain, being uncomfortable, being confined to home for these past weeks, being dependent on us for even the most basic of activities. But she is able to put it into perspective and rely upon her faith and her family to see her through what we hope is ultimately just a blip on her radar. She is a tough act to follow but I know there is no better role model I (or my sisters or my great kid or my cousins) could ever have.
So thank you and my love to all of you who are the proverbial wind beneath my wings, not just during this difficult time but all the time. Because the people who love you and support you whether you’re at your best or at your worst are the ones that matter the most and I am surrounded by them every day.