I will do this, I tell myself sternly as I add lavender-scented fabric softener to the load of clothing. And I will do this right
act One: I have never been good at waiting.
Fact Two: For the past four months I have been waiting for my mother-in-law to move in to my downstairs apartment.
I love her. But the her I love comes along with medical issues and a strong Sabra personality that has hardly diminished with age, though she’s in her nineties.
I am very scared to have her in my home. Even with her aides, I’ll feel like she is my responsibility. Right now I’m the good daughter-in-law who cheerfully visits, shows her video clips of the grandkids she doesn’t recognize, and then gracefully leaves her in the hands of the able caregivers at the rehab place.
Once she moves in, I’ll have to make sure the aides have what they need to care for her. My husband and I may have to cajole her to go to the doctor or her dayhab program. Sometimes she can be obstinate. Sometimes she’s not in the mood. Who can blame her?
I’ll have to make high-calorie pureed foods to prevent her from becoming too frail and weak. It is very sad to be around her so I will have to keep my spirits up and my emunah pumping and my home filled with simchah, no matter how pathetic I, in my little limited mind, feel the situation is.
I know she has to come here. She has been in and out of the hospital and rehab for months. Medically, she is stable enough to make the move. We always planned she would come here, eventually. And I was fine with that because eventually was a long way ahead.
Suddenly eventually is now. Her house is being sold, my husband and kids tasked with emptying it. I dutifully sort through her clothes, putting aside for donation an astonishing array of red blazers and beige skirts from the Haband mail-order years. The nicest items I wash and hang neatly in the downstairs closet.
I will do this, I tell myself sternly as I add lavender-scented fabric softener to the load of clothing. And I will do this right — with a smile and a hopeful attitude. I will do this for my husband, because he needs it. I will do it for Savta, though she doesn’t know who I am anymore. I will do this for my kids so they will know I care, though they have heard me complain. When we had to search for her missing glasses, time and time again. When she claimed we didn’t feed her when we had, of course. All those times I was the cranky daughter-in-law, not the good daughter-in-law.
Grow up and do what needs to be done, I tell myself as I place neat rows of towels and pillowcases, some with tags still attached (99 cent special!), on the linen closet shelves. Maybe those flowers are forgot-me-nots? I muse.
It’s such a big mitzvah. And one day you won’t regret it, I tell myself as I place air fresheners on the kitchen and bathroom counters.
You can do it. You don’t know your capabilities. You underestimate yourself. You will rise to the occasion and look back at this era in your life with pride.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 582)