Sunday, January 27, 2013

Are You Really That Busy?

My last post was one month ago today, and honestly, not much has changed in the last four weeks.  Mam-ma has had good days and bad, but mostly she has remained the same.  Her table-mate and a lifelong friend of my maternal grandmother, Evelyn, passed away on January 19th.  The nurse called to tell me - and to let me know that Mam-ma was having a major meltdown... uncontrollable sobbing...asking "Why not me?"  She said she was giving my grandmother an anti-anxiety pill to calm her. My little niece, Zola, was napping - and my husband was not at home to babysit.   So I called my mom, and she went to the ALF to see about Mam-ma.  When Zola woke up 45 minutes later, we went to the facility, also.

Mam-ma was sitting in the dining room with her other table-mate, Bessie, and Mom. She was subdued and never even mentioned Evelyn.  She did reach for Zola several times with a gloved hand.... fingers wriggling.  This scared my 20-month-old great-niece half to death, and she cried and cowered on my lap.  Mam-ma has always done this with little ones... she has no clue that she is frightening them.  It's her way of trying to amuse them, and it has a totally opposite effect.

I attended Evelyn's service last Monday, and afterward, I took the funeral program to Mam-ma.  Cousins had come to visit, so we chatted a while, and I left the program for Mam-ma to look over at a later time.  The administrator has advised me that she doesn't think Mam-ma will last long now that Evelyn is gone... she says she has seen it over and again.  The resident is physically fine but shuts down emotionally.  I thought this, too, but after this week, I think Mam-ma is taking Evelyn's death in stride like she has countless others in the last two years.  I honestly believe she could defy the odds and live another year or better... or she could be gone tomorrow. I've quit trying to second-guess it.

Meanwhile, we are up to our eyeballs in babies.  Zola spent two nights with us last weekend.  I had forgotten what it is like to chase a 20-month-old baby who doesn't talk in sentences yet!  She flits from one thing to another, has little to no interest in television or reading books, and loves to throw things!  On the up side, she is an angel at naptime and bedtime.  All I have to do is put her in the playpen, wind up a musical lamb, and she is OUT for the night or a 3-hour nap!  She also eats everything I feed her.  I have begun to wonder if she and Timothy are truly brother and sister, because he is totally the opposite!  BUT... he will occupy himself with blocks, a movie, or story books or puzzles for quite a while, and he can tell me what he wants and needs.

I love these babies, but when they go home, we are exhausted!  And we have yet to keep 6-month-old Nathan!  As I was leaving the funeral service last week, my piano teacher stopped me and asked if I was still teaching.  I'm not sure what she meant by that question, but I told her no, and she began to tell me how hard it is to find substitute pianists for church.  She really needs me to help fill in when she needs a break.  I told her I was absolutely too busy.  She wanted to know what on earth I was doing!  I told her I was up to my ears in babies and taking care of Mam-ma Polly, and she said, "Well, you could work up some pieces in your spare time and have them ready!"  I tried to tell her that I really don't have "spare time," and she looked at me and asked, "Do you really keep the babies that often?"

I had just dropped Zola off from her two-day stay that morning... in time to go home and shower for the funeral service.  Zola stayed two nights and 3 days because her brothers were sick with fever, and her mother wanted her out of the house in an effort to keep her well.  I took her home Monday morning, and she promptly ate a handful of dried cereal and threw up in the floor.  We were afraid she was getting sick, so on the way to the service, I stopped back by to see if I needed to pick up one of the boys ... or Zola... instead.  All were well, and napping.  We decided that Zola stuck her fingers too far into her mouth and gagged herself... hence the vomiting.  But I never know from one minute to the next when my niece will call for help with the children... or the facility will call with a problem about Mam-ma.  And it almost never fails that Mam-ma's problems occur when we have at least one child in our care.

Don't misunderstand... this busy, crazy life is full - and full of joy for the moment.  I really am at a comfortable place with my grandmother's care... save the fact that we cannot communicate and there is virtually nothing for us to talk about.  I have made peace with taking "busy work" to do while I am with her... or cleaning her apartment and sorting her drawers... or just sitting in the dining hall with her and staring at her smiling face.  And I love, love, love these babies and watching them grow and develop.  But this is just about all my husband and I have time for these days.  And we are 100% okay with that.

It used to bother me that others judged me... that people thought I should have time for church ministries, social outings or whatever.  But I am past that.  I don't know what is happening in their lives either.  I just know that mine is something of a roller coaster on occasion... and certainly never dull!

Table-mates Evelyn, Mam-ma, and
Ruth (my 3rd-grade teacher). 
Mam-ma is the only one still living.
I will end this post with a thought to ponder.  As I sat at Evelyn's service and listened to her grandson (who happens to be a Methodist minister) deliver the message, he spoke of how his grandmother always loved her family so deeply... and showed it.  This woman was in a coffee club with my maternal grandmother and great-aunt, my neighbor, and several other ladies.  These women were a huge part of my childhood... and some, like Evelyn, were lifelong influences.  Until just about a year ago, Evelyn never failed to kiss me when she saw me.  It didn't matter if it was at church,in a local store, or even at the ALF...she always greeted me with a kiss.  Now, I have no doubt that Evelyn kissed everybody... but she made me feel loved and important with this simple gesture.

I have thought about that a lot this week... how this single, seemingly insignificant act was filled with impact.  And I wonder... are we making such an impact on those in our lives?  Do we greet others with love and kindness?  Do we make them feel important?  Are we showering our children - and our elderly - with love and kisses?  Or are we so caught up in the "busyness" of our daily lives that we barely even greet one another?  I am determined to take a page from Evelyn's book... to make a concerted effort to offer up hugs and kisses - to the babies and children, to the elderly, to friends and family members - and to tell them just how much they are loved.  This should fill up any remaining "spare time" I might have.  I can think of no better way to spend it... can you?