Monday, March 17, 2008

Unconditional Love

This is a very personal post, but one I have almost a compulsion to write. I have been thinking about this alot lately and a long talk with my oldest sister on the phone today has forced my hand on getting these things out to help me keep on keeping on. I don't know why I am even sharing this on the world wide web, but I am and I hope it helps someone else along with helping me on the hard days!! (When I will force myself to re-read and remember!!)

I did not have an idyllic upbringing by any stetch of the imagination. I did things, adult chores, at ridiculously young ages and on a regular basis. This is true of my sisters as well. We had this weird team strategy thing that worked. So, from an early age I have been cooking, doing laundry, washing dishes, and generally taking care of myself. I even did bigger things like trimming grass, hoeing the garden, mowing, and household organizational type things all at a very young age (ate age four I could fix my own lunch rather than wake my mom). I can remember sorting through my school papers in 5th grade and making a keep pile, a throw away pile and a think on it pile. I made a scrapbook for myself to organize all of my newspaper clippings (small town!) and awards in in 6th or 7th grade. My sister Linda and I had cook-offs all the time. We would try all sorts of different spices to see who could make the best scrambled eggs. Where was my mom? Asleep. This was life. Mom was asleep or at work. We learned to do things for ourselves if we needed something. We had a hierarchy of sisters. Sue Ann was in charge, Pam was next then Linda and of course, as the baby, I answered to everyone. I forever dreamed of one more child so I could boss that child around-but I am so thankful for an unanswered prayer!!

So now, as life has such a way of doing, things have come back around full circle. The four of us are somewhat in charge of Mom's household again. This time, however, the hierarchy is no more and the reasons are very different. All of us are on a pretty level playing field. It also seems as though we are each gifted in different areas. We also each have different baggage when it comes to growing up and sorting out how we feel about our mother (and father-but that one is on hold for later years!). I am so thankful that I paid to put myself through two years of therapy shortly after graduating from high school. It was such a tough time because those were also heavy rebellion years for me, but it helped me sort out alot of feelings that would be coming out now if they had not been addressed then. I am glad I went through the whole hating my parents thing back then when it was a much "safer" time than now would be.

My mom was not Donna Reed. My mom wasn't even Roseanne. My mom was not a nurturing person and still isn't. My mom was and is a broken woman. I was mistreated, shamed and humiliated most of my life by her. Sadly, it still happens. The good news is that this plugged me into God at a very early age. He has been there for me my whole life. He is who I turned to with hurts and dissappointments. Jesus has always been my best friend and church has always been my "IT". I also learned how to accept help from other people-we HAD too. I learned that people are compassionate and caring. They really want to help in whatever way they can. It is also why it is hard for me to accept help from others now, but I really do try!! Not allowing people to help when you need it takes away something from both of you. I also learned that some people, namely my mother, have hurts so big they can never get over it and be a whole person again AND not to take that personal. Recently, I've learned to forgive her and my dad. I think it took being a very imperfect parent to realize they both did the best they knew how.

So, I did not get a perfect mom. I did not have a mom in the traditional sense: someone to pamper you when you are little, kiss your boo-boos, read you a story, fix meals. I had emergency parenting-she was there in emergencies and she provided for our family. She helped us pick up the pieces alot of different times in our lives. She taught us the meaning of family and the need for it. She taught us to get mad, get it out and get over it. (This wasn't the best lesson-we all "get it out" too often.) She was a wonderful example of forgiving people who have wronged you as she forgave her dad and worked to mend the relationship before he died. AND. I love her. I honor her. I appreciate how hard she worked at a minimum wage job. I respect her for keeping it together enough to work and provide for us even though she was so hurt and completely broken. I even am a bit proud of the fact that she was too proud to accept any sort of help from the government (food stamps) although food would have been nice at times. My heart's desire is to help her achieve some sort of happiness on whatever level she can. The big dissappointment is that, I don't think she can. My mom had a horrible homelife. Not with absent parenting, but with Jerry Springer type parenting. The kind of life where social services should have been called in and the parents put in jail homelife. (My mom turned out pretty normal-we did not have Jerry Springer moments.) My mom fell head over heels in love with my dad. She still is. Her heart beats for him. He rescued her from her life and he is her hero. She had babies because he loved babies. For many years she hated me because I looked just like him, everybody said so. He completed her. He cheated on her multiple times and left her alone with 4 kids while he hung out with other women in bars. She divorced him because he humiliated her so badly she felt she must. It is her biggest regret, the divorce, the heartbreak-all of it.

So now, as we all work together to help Mom, alot of "stuff" boils up to the top. I love my mom and I help her without expectations. Sort of. My Bible tells me to honor my father and mother-UNCONDITIONALLY. God knows I did it and so do my husband and children. I am not motivated by anything other than doing what I know is the right thing to do. I don't expect any other payback and if it happens-wonderful. If it doesn't-that is ok too. My oldest sister is really struggling with feelings of feeling used and taken for granted. I worry that she may walk away and wash her hands of it all. I worry the burdens of us now "being the parents" will be too much for her to want to do for my mom. When someone is reliant on you for alot of things is a bad time for the relationship to be "running on empty". Mom is not the one filling my tank-that is all God. For my sis I worry she may be relying on Mom to fill her tank.

Now for my point (and I do have one!). Unconditional love is more than we can do. It is not possible without God. My fleshly self will only do what is best for me. Even as a parent, it is alot harder to do what is best for your kids than what is easy. (Do I want to make healthy meals or order a pizza? Do I want to teach them how to keep their things in order or shut their door and hope for the best? Do I want to talk to them about sex, answer questions and really be there or give them a book and hope that answers their questions?) The only thing that ever allows me to even flirt with the idea of unconditional love is God. The need he created in me to do what is right in the sight of ALL men is what keeps me making the right decisions. The other side of me is where all the screw-ups are!! It is a forever balancing act. I am selfish to the bone and I am so thankful for the Spirit that lives within me-urging me to do the right thing. Pushing me to apologize when I mess up, pushing me to do things for people when I can think of 10 reasons why I should not, urging me to keep trying even when I mess up, mentoring me with real life people who are desperately trying to do right in a world where that is seen as stupid. Or being a doormat.

Helping my mom is the right thing to do. Loving her and making her a priority in my life fulfills a duty that is straight from God. He assures me that which is unseen by man has the greatest reward. I may be miserable in some of the moments (understatement of the year) but in the overall, I love my mom and I am happy to be in a position to help her. I feel blessed for my life, a life that has made me willing to work hard to make relationships work. A life that does not take ease for granted. A life that has produced the stick-to-it-iveness that has allowed me to accomplish things that I could not have without it. Most of all, a life with a HEAVY emphasis on family and the love that is found there. My dysfunctional family has kind of worked for me. God knew I was way too stubborn to do anything in a traditional way. I pray my kids have a better relationship with their mom than I do. I pray they are wonderful parents if they choose to have children. I pray they do not hold my faults against me. AND, if what Kayla says is true, I hope there is still a service to provide "caring support for your loved one" and that she has the money to afford it.


Mama Mia said...

I hope you see this comment before you delete this beautiful, painful and oh so personal post. Being a caregiver for an adult, especially one you have a love/dislike relationship with is only possible with God...ONLY

hulagirlatheart said...

To some degree I understand your situation. My husband's family has a fair amount of dysfunction, most of it stemming from his mother and the struggles she had as a young mother. Helping to care for her in her old age has shown me that I can't heal all the wounds that are still there and that I can't make her forgive and let go of all the things she should turn loose at this stage in life. It is painful to watch old wounds fester. Being a caregiver to such a person is a difficult at best, but you are doing the best you can...for all the right reasons. You may not be able to keep your sister in the trenches with you, but keep your head down and plow forward with a clean heart. Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.

Laurie said...

You have a heart of gold, tarnished through the years it maught be, but now you are fully aware of your life's purpose. Your family is familiar to many of the daycare moms i have befriended through the years. You are a great person. Keep up your good works, and pass all this along to yur children. My youngest is 19, my oldest is 28, i am 53 and a single's really been a great ride even with the bumps.