Love Bears All

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“How much do I owe you?” she said.  She kept repeating it several times.  Each time I assured her that she didn’t owe me anything.  I assured her that I had helped her because I loved her, not because I wanted anything.  I think she knew she didn’t owe me, as we have always joked in our family about “sending the bill”, but still a small part of her seemed to feel the need to offer.  I think it was because she was grateful.

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Grateful that I helped her bathe.  I don’t do it to be noble or garner praise.  I do it because somebody has too.  It’s not my natural inclination to bathe others, or help them to the bathroom or with whatever personal needs they need met.  I mistakenly entered a nursing program when I was 18.  How naive of me.  I lasted until mid-October.  When our instructor told us that the next semester we’d be giving shots that was the last straw for me.  That was my aha moment that I was not meant to be a caregiver.  I mean, the bed baths and the perverted old man had been a clue, but the shots just pushed me over the edge.  So, I’m a nursing school drop-out.

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She made me pay for that.  Not to be mean, but to teach me a lesson.  Uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes etc are expensive and I had entered into a noble profession lightly, without much thought, other than the memory of the cute lab techs I’d witnessed when my grandfather was in the hospital a few months earlier.  I mean decisions have probably been made for worse reasons, but really.  As I said, I was very naive at 18.  And such a romantic.  So, I worked at babysitting and paid back some of the money to my mom who had worked hard as a school lunch lady to help me.  Thankfully, she was able to use the uniforms and shoes as this was in the days when school lunch ladies wore white uniforms.

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This sense of making things right and being responsible still lurks around the fringes of her current state of dementia.  She needed to tell me that what I’d done was worth something to her.  She compliments me whenever I do something to help her and tells me that others would be glad to have someone do the same for them. She tells me I could probably get other’s to pay for my services.  I patiently explain to her that  I am not certified to do these things for pay.  Nor, would I want to.

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She is always grateful and even though there is a vulnerability in letting me help her, she does so because she trusts me and because she knows she needs my help.  It is hard for her to give up her independence, she who has always been the caregiver, always the one to meet the need.  It is hard for me to see her lose that independence, to realize that she doesn’t remember to bathe, or lotion her skin, or brush her teeth, all those little things that we take for granted and do habitually.  She is still particular and loves to be clean, she just doesn’t realize when she isn’t.  So, I remind her as gently as I can that it’s shampoo time.  I help her in as practical a way as I can because I know she wants to be as normal as possible. It is a humbling experience to be given that kind of trust.  Especially, from one who has always been so independent.

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So today, when she yet again asked what she owed me, I tried to make her see that she was the reason I was able to do these things for her.  Over the years I have watched her take care of others; it is her love language.  No job too dirty.  She has wiped many a dirty bottom and washed many a dirty feet.  She never sees the dirty part of the job. She just sees the need; her compassion and love for others compels her to act in loving service to them.  By watching her in action, I have seen that love bears all things.  Love takes care of the dirty. Even though it doesn’t come natural to me, I am able to act with compassion because her example taught me how.

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Love is a wonderful thing when we let it drive our actions.  It will take us out of our comfort zone into places we never thought we’d be capable of inhabiting.  When we remember the price love paid for us, it enables us to show that same kind of love to others. Especially to others.

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Loving Because of Grace,

Teresa

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Lessons Learned From Influential Women In My LIfe

There are several women who have been influential in my life and I wanted to honor them by making a list of the things I learned from them.

From my mother, I have learned that…
1. I should be myself and not worry what others think of me
2. it is ok to play with paper dolls when you are an adult
3. dreams and using your imagination are essential
4. I need to love the people in my life unconditionally no matter what
5. it is important to speak the truth and stand my ground
6. it is ok to defend yourself (like kicking boys who try to kiss you when you tell them not to)
7. helping others is a way to help ourselves
8. even in our deepest hurt there is balm
9 forgiveness takes courage and grace and is its own reward
10. there is joy in embracing the woman that God designed me to be.

From my mother-in-law, I have learned that…
1. perseverance is important
2. you can be friends with your mother-in-law
3. good husbands come from good mothers
4. our attitude is what colors our world
5. you don’t want to be taken to the apple tree for a talk
6. Christmas is for kids of all ages
7. time spent in the swing or on the back porch is time well spent
8. deer and birds are worth watching
9. family sticks by each other no matter what
10. love conquers all

From my sister, I have learned that…
1.  Life is an adventure to be enjoyed
2.  Fear is conquered by doing
3.  Making friends is necessary
4.  Dancing is good for the soul.
5.  Your work should be something you love
6.  Wordplay keeps your mind sharp
7.  You should vacuum only when absolutely necessary
8.  Affirmations get more results than anger
9.  You can’t allow anyone else to define who you are
10. Sometimes you need to retreat from the world

From my maternal grandmother, I learned that…
1. it is ok to eat crackers in bed
2. I should love everybody the same, but make everyone feel like they are the most important person in my life
3. prayer is powerful and sometimes it takes a long time to name every family member
4. life is fun and it’s ok to stop in the middle of a busy day and play
5. no matter how many things you have to keep up with they will all get done.
6. going to church is important
7. feather beds are comforting, but hugs are even better
8. family stories should be carried to the next generation
9. opening your home to others is a privilege
10. children are to be heard as well as seen

From my paternal grandmother, I learned that…
1. sometimes you just need to stay on top of the hill and mind your own business
2. being quiet is graceful and sometimes necessary
3. taking care of your family is more important than other “stuff”
4. you should always take time for a good book
5. you always provide for your guest and make no apologies for that provision
6. keeping notes for the future helps you look back and appreciate what you have been given
7. snow gives you time to hibernate and retreat for replenishment
8. husbands are the head of the house even when they let us do things our way
9. keeping the peace is more important than proving points
10. quilts tell their own stories and bring comfort

From my aunt Nancy, I learned that…
1. we all need a safe haven from the world
2. life is too short to worry about the small stuff
3. music is made in your heart and played loudly on an accordion
4. it’s ok to try new things, like painting a room bright orange, or learning all the words to “Harper Valley PTA”
5. it’s ok to talk freely without fear of being judged and to let others do the same
6. dreaming out loud helps you plan for your future
7. sometimes it’s ok to break the “rules” if nobody gets hurt
8. falling in love is wonderful when you listen to your heart
9. sharing special moments with others makes them even more special
10. in our hearts we never really lose those we love

 

Gracefully learning from others,

Teresa