When my mother became ill, she and my father came to live with my family in
Florida for a few months. My oldest child was still a baby. Being a new mom, I
was one big walking raw nerve anyway, and my daughter was demanding what little
patience I had, so it took about ten minutes for me to lose my patience with my
mother. She had Multiple Sclerosis, and was in a wheelchair, so she had to be
waited on hand and foot. My husband worked full time days, and my father was
working nights, so the majority of her needs fell on my father and I.
Just so you won't think I was being unreasonable, or unsympathetic, I must give you a little history. The world always revolved around my mother. My father spoiled her rotten. He doted on her. Like the song says, "when a man loves a woman, she can no wrong".
She was a very proud southern lady, who had always taken great care with her appearance. Never a hair out of place, nails neatly done, clothing chosen with skill and an eye for style.
When she got sick, she pretty well so fell apart. Her appearance went south, she was rotten to the core, and she reveled in it.
She ran my Daddy ragged, and he hopped around like a trained seal, as though he enjoyed every minute of it. If she wanted something, she wanted it now, and if she didn't want something, (like medicine) you'd better pack a lunch when you came to try to give it to her. She ranted, and raved, and cursed her condition. She blamed God, and the family, and her hard life. Somebody must be responsible for what was happening to her, and she wasn't too particular about who it was. She lamented all the things she'd never done, that she now couldn't do, like the second honeymoon she and my father had planned to Hawaii.
"Now I'll never step off a plane and have a lei hung around my neck!"
Daddy ran most of her errands and got her to the restroom when the need arose. He brought her her meals, and made sure she had something to drink. He kept her company, and entertained her when she was stuck in bed. One day while I stood at the sink in the kitchen washing dishes, I heard her raking him over the coals for not doing something fast enough to suit her, and I gritted my teeth.
While I felt sorry for what my mother was going through, at the moment, my sympathies were firmly with my father. He was the one with the sleepless nights, and the bags under his eyes, and Mama was on a tear to beat all tears that day. She wouldn't have anyone near her but Daddy, and she didn't want anybody messing with her, so her hair was a veritable rat's nest. She had no makeup on, and since she refused to get changed, she had been wearing the same robe and nightgown for two days. She had a permanent scowl affixed to her face, and she was barking orders and whining and complaining to beat the band.
Daddy buzzed through the kitchen on his way to get/fix/return/or prepare something for mother, and I snatched him by the shirt sleeve as he went by. I thought he ought to know that somebody was thinking of him.
"I don't know how you do it." I whispered. "I don't know what keeps you from wringing her neck!"
"I don't know what you mean." He said, looking genuinely puzzled, and slightly amused.
"Well, listen to her. She doesn't appreciate you! She's running you into the ground, and just look at her!" I hissed. "She looks like the gatekeeper to Hades!"
He just laughed.
"You're crazy in the head, girl. That's the most beautiful woman that God ever blew breath into. You need to get your eyes checked!" He told me in no uncertain terms, and then he scurried away to tend to mother's needs.
It was then that I realized that the love he had for her would survive anything. As for her demands, he was pleased to comply, and regarding her appearance, well, he was seeing her through 1940's colored glasses, and always would. No matter what. It gave me hope for my future, and made me realize that if you truly, truly, love someone with all your being, you will always see them the way they were when you first fell in love with them, and nothing can ever change that. He wasn't 'taking care' of her. He was simply loving her.
By and by, Mom came to accept her illness and even made some progress in physical therapy, and went back to being concerned with the way she looked, but ultimately she succumbed and the only solace came in the fact that Daddy went before her. If he had outlived her, I don't know what he would have done. As it is, they are together again, as they always were, and as it should be, and I suspect that she's bossing him around heaven and he's worshiping the cloud she floats on.