After you visit home, especially during an extended stay, little tensions, old patterns and fresh observations happen.
My brother, whose home I hadn’t seen over several visits, finally lets me see his home or at least the living room, kitchen, dining room and bathroom. They are well-appointed because he does have an eye for design, no doubt inherited from my mother who always furnished our home with style even when most of the items were purchased from thrift shops. His bedroom and study are off limits because they are a mess. Some things never change. (He probably cleaned up because he knew I’d be coming by, waiting until my sister got off work and we could all surprise my mother.)
At my Mom’s house, I am surprised that the furniture is still the same and in the same place. My mother used to renew and refresh her home annually and often more frequently. She is slowing down. It shows mostly in the house and the fact that everything is in the same place. Luckily, her fashion sense is still acute and so she still looks fabulous sporting her white hair (now that she has let Miss Clairol go).
My sister doesn’t organize her house the way
it should be organized, I mean the way I would organize it. I am surprised at some of the things she doesn’t have, especially in her kitchen. There are kitchen gadgets, spices, staples and things like, oh, a tea kettle that aren’t there. She doesn’t make many meals from scratch, a big no-no in my world. (And, yes, I even did this when my children were young and I was on the parenting treadmill.) I also observe that her children don’t have regular chores. She seems to be making it up as she goes along.
I tsk-tsk, in my head and say a couple of things aloud about the kitchen/food situation. (Our family has never been known for holding our tongues about small things, although we can hide and deny big and important things with a vengeance, and a loving banter is always going on). She refuses to simply let me cook dinner my way until the big family dinner when conflicting demands mean that she has to be missing-in-action and has no choice but to let me do it all although she insists she will make her Betty Crocker-mixed cake, over the homemade pound cake I was going to do.
It then hits me powerfully (and not for the first time) that my sister is tired. The challenges of raising two active children (with all the shuttling that entails), working full-time, volunteering, attending church and managing her illness (lupus with a vengeance) leave her exhausted. If:
- she had more energy and more help (hint to her husband),
- she knew how to ask for help and delegate,
- she would eliminate some of the running from her list, she’d do better.
Still, if she was different, she wouldn’t be her. Her fight has kept her alive.
But now age is catching up to all of us and we must tend to ourselves more carefully and consciously than ever before. I write her a long letter and leave it on her bedside table. In it, I beg her to eliminate, delegate, eat better and rest more. I buy her a red tea kettle and peppermint tea. (I make a note for myself of other things to look out for that would really help her. Wonder how much cleaning help costs in St. Louis? If I hit the lottery…)
I ask myself – why am I not living near my family? To not be near them when I could be of help and share this part of our family journey breaks my heart. Should I move to the St. Louis home or with my daughter and granddaughter in yet another city who could also use the support and nurturing I have?
My arms are not w i d e e n o u g h t o s t r e t c h from my home here in Boston to the three cities where my family abide. I could leave Boston quick, fast and in-a-hurry (although I’m sure my husband has strong opinions about this).
- Which place to go?
- Where should the next stage of my journey be?
Where is home?