runnin’ on empty….

….so thanks for the encouraging comments that blogfriends have left on other posts here.
I promised my dad, on his deathbed, that I would take care of my mom. I knew it would be hard, given who we both are — which is about as opposite as two people could be.
I think there’s much to be said for asserting one’s independence early in life, exploring one’s inner and outer worlds, taking risks and learning to make the best of the consequences. That’s how I’ve lived my life (which, I hope, has quite a few years left to it; although, I do wonder if there might be something hereditary that will show up in my brain).
My mom had a hard life. The oldest of three girls (she also had two older male siblings), she had to leave high school when she was sixteen and go to work in a carpet mill. Yup, think of the photos of sweatshops that you have seen — that’s what it was. She and her sisters also strung beads to earn more money for the family.
She’s the last one left of her family of origin.
I can tell from things she says now that her younger sisters did not have the expectations laid on them that she had. I don’t think she was mothered very well, although she does talk a lot about how helpful her mother was to friends, neighbors, and relatives — especially if they were new Polish immmigrants. I can’t help wonder how much her mother didn’t do for her because she was doing for others and expected my mother to do the same. Perhaps she spent much of her life running on empty.
After the first world war, my grandmother took her five kids to Poland because they were so poor. For eight years they lived and worked on the old family farm that had a house with a thatched roof.
That’s my mom in the midde soon after they returned to America. My grandfather had gotten a decent job in a sugar factory.
smallback from Poland.jpg
As I give up more and more of my current life to help make what’s left of hers easier for her, I’m trying to remember why I need to do that.
Because I promised my dad. Because she often was there to help me out when I needed help. Because I still can. Because it’s what we’ve always done in our family. Because I will regret it if I don’t. Because I would not want to die alone.
I’m runnin’ on empty today. So I blog. Talk on the phone to my daughter and my son and my grandson. They keep me going. For now, they keep me going. Even on empty.

6 thoughts on “runnin’ on empty….

  1. Thinking of you – I have a quotation near my desk, “Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying … I will try again tomorrow.”
    Sometimes trying again is all we can do. I am sending you a well deserved hug.

  2. If it is of any comfort, in your pain you are writing your ass off over here. Sometimes that is a piece of reward that makes “living through it” sort of worth it.
    Elaine, you have been caring for your mom as your passion and your commitment since we started blogging–and I’m sure before that. That was in 2001. I just want you to know that if you had to get some help for her–a safe place for her to be where others could share in the job–we AND your dad would respect you just the same. You can still care for her. I just wish you had some help with the round-the-clock aspect….
    I’ll be quiet now.

  3. I want to thank Jeneane and ask her not to “be quiet now”… 🙂 And I thank Horsetail because he’s kewl, and frank, and compassionate.
    Mom — I love you and respect your promise to Poppa. I also have concern for you and your life — that you allow yourself to have time to live it. As I was reminded this morning, we only get one.
    As I watch and hear the progress of things, I, too, wonder if it isn’t time to take the next step. I know she’d be frightened, and probably resentful, but it is fast reaching a point where you cannot help her. At least not alone. As was also pointed out to me today, if caring for someone with a heart problem and they have a heart attack would you do nothing and keep them home, continuing to try and care for them because you promised to do so? While this is more subtle, less easy to see, it is, I think, something to consider now.
    Now, while you have life of your own left to live.
    And I apologize if I’ve said “too much” publicly, but support seems to abound here, and it seemed like the right thing to do.

  4. I hope that my daughter, Melissa, knows just how much she shores me up with her moral support. And that goes for the rest of my blogfriends here as well. When the good days outnumber the bad, I will take the next step. I know it will be the hardest I’ve ever taken, so I’m not going to take it until I’m absolutely sure that I can live with the consequences.

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