My relationship with my mother has improved since I’ve had children.
It’s like a curtain was pulled aside and I suddenly understood so much more about her, particularly her patience and creativity as a mother.
I’ve spent all these years trying to be unique, different from her, my own person.
If anyone as much as insinuated that I was like my mother they were met with my wrath.
It’s pathetic that it has taken me until now to recognize the many, many ways I am like her – and feel glad.
The self-deprecating humor? Hers.
The ability to make new people feel at ease? Hers.
The list is long.
As a mother now myself, I look back and realize what a truly good mother she has been. I will be lucky if I do even half as good of a job as she did. [Her patience is a trait I didn’t get. Damn.]
One negative trait we share is relative incompetence when it comes to true illness.
Both my mother and I are fine playing nurse to children suffering from a cold or a skinned knee, but both of us shift nervously in a hospital room.
I don’t think either of us knows exactly what to do or what to offer friends, family – or anyone for that matter – that is really sick.
I’ll speak for myself and be brutally honest.
I feel uncomfortable and out of control around real illness.
I have been so fortunate to have had very limited exposure to the very sick and therefore have little experience with it.
When faced with a real health crisis, I don’t know what would be helpful for me to do or say.
I am an action oriented person. I need to know what to DO.
My friend Gwen nearly died when her daughter was born prematurely. The baby was so little…
Gwen had been very sick for more than a week before being admitted to the hospital so their house was a wreck and the nursery wasn’t put together at all when the hospital told Gwen’s husband that he would have to take the baby home on his own.
In this case, I organized a team of friends to clean their house and set up the nursery. I also served as a communications coordinator of sorts for her friends and family, sending out e-mail updates about her health.
When I visited her in the hospital, I bit my nails and looked at the floor.
I don’t always intuit what people might be thinking or catch on to subtle signals.
I sometimes wish that when friends or family were sick they would wake up each morning and dictate a list.
Daily List: Things I would like people to do for me or say to me today...
At least then I could feel helpful.
I know, I know. It’s not about ME, but what good does it do for me to shift from foot to foot and stammer?
My friend Becca’s husband was diagnosed with Leukemia about two years ago. At the time, their eldest daughter was three and their youngest was five months old.
Becca’s brother lives in town and he organized an amazing on-line calendar where everyone in her community could sign up to cook and deliver meals, help with household chores, hold and rock the baby, visit her husband in the hospital, loan various items they needed during his post-chemo periods at home and even donate money.
It made everyone in her community feel part of the support team, each of us doing a part of a much greater whole.
But what about people just outside of my immediate community?
There’s a woman with children in The Mayor & The Rooster’s daycare whose husband has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. They have three children under the age of five, she is a school teacher and her husband is going to die.
WhyMommy from Toddler Planet recently found out that she has a rare form of breast cancer. She’s still nursing her five month old. This breaks my heart and yet, I am paralyzed.
Schmutzie has cervical cancer.
I would love to be helpful, but I don’t know what to say, much less what to do.
How do I rise up and properly support those who need it in times like these?
In February my grandfather, my Ady, passed away. My mother was at his side in the hospital.
I haven't talked with her about what that was like in the context of how she's historically felt about hospitals and sickness.
I do know that my Granny was grateful to have her there.
Perhaps I can be even more like my mother.