Friday, April 22, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Hard Love

Once again, it's Friday.  And that means it's time to try and link up with Lisa-Jo over at the Gypsy Mama.  Five minutes of unedited writing, this time on the topic of hard love.  For me the topic today is about 180 degrees from where Lisa-Jo went with it...

She waits in the guest room, right next door to me as I type these words.  I can hear her shuffling things around, waiting for me to emerge from my Good Friday afternoon nap.  We've been to a remarkable service today at the local Episcopal church where we heard a male sextet sing an Atakhist - a song of deep thanksgiving written by an Eastern Orthodox monk while living out a difficult life in a Russian gulag in the 1930's.  It was gorgeous - such a contrast to the events we were there to commemorate - and yet such a powerful reminder of the glorious gifts of God in this world, this place, this home of ours.

And I think she got most of it.  It's very hard to tell.

She is nearing 90.  16 months ago, her youngest and most troubled child died in his sleep.  Six years ago, her partner of 64 years died after three years of a lingering, wasting illness in which he became unable to say to his wife, "You're wearing yourself out caring for me - let's find me a place to be where you can rest at night and I can be tended."  In the last 5 years, she has slowly, agonizingly lost almost all of her vision to macular degeneration and she's also lost an increasing amount of her ability to hear conversations.

She has lost a lot of her independence.  And most hard for me, most difficult for her, she has lost the ability to respond to life as she once did: with spunk, fiestiness, joyful laughter and an amazingly creative ability to rise to the challenge.

It is sometimes very hard to love her as I once did.  And it is very hard for her to love anyone as she once did.  So we rely on a long history of shared affection, commitment and memories to get us through the rough times.

In some ways she reminds me of my 5 year old grandchildren - volatile emotionally, insecure at times, frightened by abrupt changes in life or schedule, confused by what's happening around them.  So I am learning that the best thing to do to show her my love is what I do to them - wrap my arms around her, kiss her soundly on the cheek and say something like.  "All better now.  I love you.  You're the best (kid) (mom) I know.  I'm here to help.  What can I do?"

She'll be heading home again on Easter afternoon, to that little apartment at the retirement community about 2 and a half hours south of me.  And I will be both sad and relieved.   That's what's hard about love right now.