Bless Her Heart

Scott and I just returned from a visit to Vancouver, BC, for his 50th high school graduation reunion. It was here that he lived, off and on, throughout his childhood with his spinster aunt and grandmother (may they rest in peace). Scott’s Aunt Eileen stories are legendary in our family. I recorded this one at the end of a visit in September, 2007.

DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve done pretty well, I think, here with Eileen, but there’s no pleasing her unless you do it her way, step by step. She controls your every move—imperiously. I wonder what her past holds that keeps her so tightly wound up all the time?

There’s a union strike in the city here that has shut down garbage removal, parks, golf courses, and the library. So every scrap of paper, every piece of garbage has to be carefully and deliberately disposed of. She has a system for everything: five different places to store five different kinds of plastic bags—each for a different size and purpose. And woe betide the person who reaches for the wrong bag and uses it for a different purpose than her intention! And one is expected to keep the information all straight after the first instruction—which can change at times, by the way!

Bless her heart (to use a Southern catch-all phrase), she recognizes that she’s crotchety but doesn’t know how to change. [At a later visit, she admitted her regret that she was being so difficult.] Since we’ve been here, we’ve been told what to do and then instructed how in the following areas:

  • Make my bed (how to align the stripes, when to wash the sheets)
  • When to open the blinds in my bedroom (right after making the bed)
  • How to wash the dishes (fill the sink, use the drainer)
  • Prune the flowers, rake the garden (for this one I actually did need instructions)
  • Where to drive, where to park (poor Scott)
  • When to sightsee and where
  • How to feed the cats and when
  • How to polish the silver (which cloth, what direction, how wet, how much)
  • Do a crossword puzzle (which one, when)
  • Eat (what time, how much [i.e. minuscule] – again, poor Scott)
  • How to dress (scarf worn a certain way, belt cinched just so)
  • What books to read from her shelf (sorry, not my taste)
  • Water the lawn (let out the hose inch by inch until it suits her)
  • Prepare the corn on the cob (shuck top down, all at once, boil exactly 6 minutes)
  • Eat corn on the cob (from left to right in rows. Seriously!)

sewing-needle-thread-mend-eye-of-needle-39548Yesterday she asked me to sew a button on a coat that she’d altered (she was most proud of her sewing prowess). We almost came to blows over how to perform this simple task. I started to sew it on with double thread so as to save a knot on the underside, but she insisted it must be a single thread and never mind if it had a knot. (Scott says this is the closest he’s seen me to losing it!)

I’m reminded of Joyce Landorf’s books entitled Irregular People (1982) and Balcony People (1989). Balcony People are in the “balcony” of your life, cheering you on, energizing you with their affirmation. Irregular People are in your “basement” doing exactly the opposite—crushing your spirit with their emotional abuse.

[I must interject here that, in spite of Aunt Eileen’s “basement” responses, she was also legendary for her generosity, her extremely high IQ (she did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles in record time), and her ability to encourage her proteges on to excellence. She was an author and internationally-renowned social worker with blind children. The methods she developed many years ago are still in practice today.]

After that little altercation with the sewing, I determined to back off . . . to not be so bold in standing up to her. It’s just not worth it. Not for my sake, mind you. I would have no trouble standing up to her if I didn’t care about her. But why cause her undue stress or distress at this elderly stage in her life? She’s never going to change.

Bless my heart!

Who is your Irregular Person and how do you handle the situation?

The Journey Not to Home Part II

L.M. Welkers Sep 74

Dad and Mom in 1970

Continued from last week’s blog . . .

For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away what is promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Journal June 5, 2007 I’ve decided to extend my stay another 5 days with my parents in Sebring. Mom is emotionally spent. She’s finally moving from the anger stage to the grieving stage. Slowly she’s learning her way around the house and adjusting to a new kitchen—a major hurdle with her macular degeneration. She’s getting help with handling the finances, and the nurses are assisting with Dad’s baths and other needs. The final challenge is learning how to shop in a new grocery store.

Each day gets a little better, but each day puts me closer to leaving. I played my last Scrabble game with Mom as her eyesight is too poor to continue. It’s not a matter of unpacking physically for my parents, though that’s important, but it’s a matter of unpacking emotionally.

My sleep schedule is off as they keep the house so warm it’s hard to sleep. My mind is racing all the time like a giant switchboard, and all the lights and rings are happening at once. Is this how Mom feels? I can step backwards, out of the switchboard room in my mind, but I still feel the responsibility of having to reenter it. I know there’s beauty behind me, but I’m still facing the room. I can’t seem to turn around. Who will take care of the switchboard if I turn my back on it? How can I turn my back on responsibility?

Like my mother, I can sit on a chair for a while and rest.

June 10. My last day in Sebring, I was awoken by Mom yelling for me. Dad had fallen while trying to reach for his hearing aids, and he cut a two-inch gash in his head. We rushed him to the hospital where I had to leave them in the ER in order to get to my plane on time. I stopped by their house to pack, racing around to get the rooms in order as best I could, including soaking sheets, towels and Dad’s shirt that were all covered in blood.

Planes in Orlando were grounded for a huge storm, and I arrived in Miami just half an hour before my flight to Nashville was due to take off. My connecting gate was on the opposite end of the terminal and no shuttle available. I ran till I thought I would pass out and boarded just as they were closing the doors. I did not want to spend the night in the Miami airport! I arrived home at midnight (my body’s time) and of course my luggage was not on the plane.

This was not the way I wanted to leave my parents . . .

June 14, 2007. As I settle back into a routine at home, all the switchboard lights come on at once. I find I’m still needed—by my husband, by my kids, by my friends, by my parents, by those to whom I minister. It’s nice to be needed—I think. But what if I don’t want the role? Then what!? Have I created that dependency on me, or is it my God-driven, God-given role? I gladly give to those in need, but we all have to take turns. The past two weeks were Mom and Dad’s turn.

People’s neediness manifests in various ways. Physically, my parents needed me to help them get settled into their new home. Emotionally, they needed even more, but only God can take away their pain. What I can do is create an atmosphere by my words and deeds that provide the support whereby a person can be drawn to God.

But what if a person is “unloveable”? What is impossible with man is possible with God.

My prayer today is for a deeper love for people—especially the needy ones in my life. I may be repulsed by people’s attitudes and sin, but I am to love them anyway. Did Jesus love the Pharisees? By His words of rebuke, you’d wonder! He was awfully hard on them. Yet He died for them—His actions proved it.

When is it hard for you to love someone?