Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taken In

By Belinda

I said hello with a smile as I strode up the steps of the church, but she, going in the opposite direction, clutched my arm gently, her eyes bright with news to share.

Soft perfume wafted around her, and I noticed her elegance and femininity. She wore a stylish, long coat and a silk scarf. Made up perfectly, her eyes were set off by soft, light brown eyeliner; tastefully applied with a light hand and her hair; soft, light brown waves; framed her face. She must have been very beautiful in her time, I thought.

She leaned in towards me, conspiratorially, pulling me closer with the hand on my arm.

"Did my daughter tell you what they've done for me?" she said, smiling.

"No," I said.

"They've said I can live with them," she said, "James--St. James I call him, is so good to me."

Her daughter and son-in-law (James): in their 50's: had walked on ahead of her as she confided her happy secret to me. I knew that she had been living at a nursing home with her husband who had just recently died of Alzheimer's disease.

Her words were poignant, and reminded me of Blanche Dubois in the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire: "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

There was something about someone so glad to have been "taken out" and "taken in," that made me feel sad. This woman had once held a position of prominence in society. Is this what happens to us all, I thought, this utter vulnerability and gratitude? And why did it affect me so? Surely it was wonderful that she no longer had to live at the nursing home?

Gratitude is a good thing, but I think I wished that she felt that she was the gift that others appreciated and that she would feel precious and vied for more than grateful.

I feel, deep down as though family doesn't "take in," they love one another and do that together as long as they can.

But perhaps it is me who is wrong. Her family have made room in their lives; adjusted their home to include an extra person and that is kind and generous and not to be taken for granted.

What do you think?

9 comments:

Marilyn said...

Going just on the words she spoke, I have the same inner response and sadness. I don't want anyone not to have a place they belong that is fully theirs and not dependent on the kindness of others.

Of course, the words she chose may just be her own way of saying it. I can picture myself saying, "Well, they've lost all sense and are taking me on. Regrets will surely follow." Laughing, of course.

Belinda said...

Yes, Marilyn! I smile at your funny way of putting it.

I woke up in the night worrying that people would think I was condemning people who don't take in their elderly parents. I didn't mean that at all as I know that sometimes circumstances just aren't right, but exactly as you said, everyone should have a place that is fully theirs--and the dignity of that belonging and owning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bel(Q)- You are both wrong and right.Or,better to say,there are several ways to look at it.Yes, it would be good for her to think of herself as a gift for others to appreciate.But, doesn't she?Ever?If she doesn't,ever,then she should,sometimes.But I can't help but wonder,as Jesus sat and ate and fellowshipped with the tax-collectors,prostitutes and other various and sundry sinners,was He sitting and thinking of Himself as God's-gift to them(He was!)but was He thinking about,dwelling upon,that or was He thinking about them and what they were doing for Him?Looking for(and finding)the good in THEM? The Bible says He didn't grasp at His equality with God(terrible paraphrase-but I can't remember where it's found!)Meaning,because He knew His worth He didn't have anything to prove to anyone and I can't help but wonder if maybe that grip on who He was "freed" Him to humble Himself.And maybe that is what we should do.Know our worth(to and in,Christ so fully that we constantly hold up others ? His example and our practically unattainable goal?Just musing....Poppy

Deidra said...

Both.

What a wonderful feeling to know you are wanted. To know that someone cares about you enough to make space in what is their normal.

The flip side however, is the fact that this is closer to the exception these days instead of the rule. The expectation is that we will finish our days in a nursing home, on our own, depending on the kindness of strangers instead of the presence of family.

And I know there are circumstances that make it so difficult. In my family alone there have been choices for nursing homes and choices for hospital beds set up in the living room. And always questions about which was best.

Susan said...

Last I heard on this subject in my family, my kids were still fighting over who gets to take care of us when we're too old or infirm to take care of ourselves. That's a nice feeling. But I won't hold them to that...

I can't think of anywhere a ray of hope in God is needed more than in the nursing homes I've been visiting in. I'm ready and willing to go there if life comes to that juncture. I wouldn't want to be a burden to anyone, nor would I want to keep any of my kids from what God has called them to do. But being a shining light in a nursing home may be my final assignment on this earth... and I wouldn't want anyone to keep me from that if that's where God wants me to be...

Suz said...

Most "older folks" don't want to be a burden on their children. I know my mother told us she did not want to live with us. I think it was because she saw how in affected her sister and family and how it affected her mother. My sister and I would have fought over her but that did not happen. She died 8 years ago at the age of 88 and was independent for 87 of those years. God be praised.

What I read in this story was a woman who is delighted that her family loves her and has poo-pooed her argument of being a burden. She gets to spend time with her grandchildren and be a part of a family again - on a daily basis.

I am thrilled for her and for her family. It will be a blessing for both.

mercygraceword said...

My feelings are no doubt coloured by the fact that my maternal grandmother lived with us from the time I was 6 after having been institutionalized for 11 years due to mental health challenges.
It was not easy for any of us, especially my father, surrounded by his wife, mother-in-law, five daughters and a female dog :O)
but we wouldn't have had it any other way. There are still cultures where it would be an automatic assumption - so for me the saddest words were "They've said I can live with them."

Deborah

Belinda said...

Friends, thank you for your perspectives, helping me to sort out why I had such a deep response to this woman's words.

Deborah you surely have a story to tell from your rich experiences.

I find myself longing for our culture to realize that the young are enriched by the elderly; and wishing for a resurgence of respect for the wisdom of age, or even just for age itself.

Angcat said...

Thank you for putting the question out there Belinda.

I love how 'Poppy' answered. When we know who and Whose we are, then we are just grateful. That's a wonderful, humble heart. I love, in your story,that she was smiling when she told you, not looking as if she was a burden about to be taken on.

My parents are frequently having to hold off my advances, as I'd have us living together already if I had my way. They're just far too independent. Seniors these days.

:-)