Tuesday, May 18, 2010

He wins, I win.

Yesterday Ben and I went to look at a used riding lawn mower for sale. I would rather sit down to mow instead of using the walk-behind power mower that used to be self-propelled. It broke, which made it impossible to push. But now Ben tells me that it is fixed, but I would still like a sit-down mower for our acre.
Before we left to look at the mower, he said he'd rather get a new barbeque. He has been wanting one for years (but not as long as I've wanted a riding lawn mower)...good lord do we sound suburban or what.
Even though we decided that Ben gets his barbeque, I had a feeling there was a reason to go meet the mower owners.
Pam and Roger live on a hill in Selah looking east to the hills and the desert. The house was built in 1929 and is surrounded with enormous old cedars. It's where Pam grew up, watching her father farm and her mother plant rose bushes and peonies under the cedars.
Ben and Roger talked lawnmowers and fishing and who knows what else and Pam and I got to talking about our mothers and plants.
Pam lost her mother in January. Her mother had a stroke in 1995, and Pam, one of four siblings in the area, was the designated caregiver. At one point she and Roger came to live with Pam's mother on the hilltop in Selah. Then her mother went to a nursing home for four years and Pam was her advocate, which means she went to visit almost every day. Pam and Roger eventually bought the home from Pam's mother. The last year and a half of her mother's life, Pam was the primary caregiver in their home.  Her sisters came once a month for an hour or two.
I asked Pam how she felt now that her mother was gone. Did she feel relieved? Was she grieving?
She said she felt numb.
As I questioned her more I discovered that she didn't have a close relationship with her mother, but took care of her anyway. And now that she is gone, Pam is wondering why she isn't grieving. She said she was sorting through a lot of feelings, including being angry at her siblings for not being there for their mother.
I asked her if she felt guilty.
We agreed that unless you've taken care of a parent the way she has, in the way I have, people don't get it. It's understandable. We aren't good about walking in another person's moccasins.
And even though I can wrap my mind around some  of her experience, I have a hard time comprehending how she spent 15 years, similar to the time I've spent being there for mom, in caretaking a person who had a stroke and was in and out of nursing homes and then in their home for a year and a half.
Mom has had strokes, but nothing that debilitated her indefinitely. At 101 you would never know she had the strokes.
Pam said the first day after her mother died she went to town and felt at loose ends knowing that she didn't have to run home, or run an errand for her mother.  I can relate, even though I'm not there yet.
She said she was tired still, and wondered why. I said, it takes awhile.
Ben and I left after an hour and Pam and I agreed we'd be seeing each other again.
And sometime this week Ben and I will go shopping for the barbeque as a four-year anniversary present.
He gets his barbeque. And he'll do the mowing. A win-win.

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