Today’s lessons of not knowing all about one’s story until you actually know all sides of it come as a result of my visit to mom on Thanksgiving. As I noted in my previous post, it was just a get-together between Mom and I. My sisters and their families were doing their own thing on Thanksgiving, and our entire family (aside from me, embarrassingly) got together earlier this month instead.
In the 3-plus hours we had the chance to spend on Thursday, Mom and I had a nice, simple dinner (the usual turkey and stuffing and all that) and more importantly talked about a lot of things. Politics, thankfully, was not discussed; the closest we got to that was my passing mention about the importance of giving everything you see on your Facebook feed full scrutiny (the whole “fake news” thing, you know). But our conversation did range from grocery stores, to what presents Mom is crafting for her granddaughters, and all that’s been going on in our broad family. Starting with Mom’s new job. I mentioned in my last post that Mom decided to leave her job as a cook and housekeeper at a nursing home. She loved working there, and the residents and co-workers really appreciated her work. But she felt like the bottom rung of the ladder there, and as she went into detail with me on Thursday, it was all due to her manger, who was one to take credit for Mom’s work and schedule Mom for inconvenient work shifts. The latter is what led Mom to leave, as her manager scheduled her to work the Saturday earlier this month when our family (aside from me, embarrassingly) had our Thanksgiving. Mom told her manager many times she wanted that weekend off, but the manager held firm, even forbidding her from swapping a shift with a co-worker. With that, Mom gave her two weeks’ notice.
Now, Mom is currently working part-time (two or three evenings a week) at a restaurant much closer to where she now lives. But it is only part-time, and it is only minimum wage. Which is why Mom has been looking for other work before and after getting that restaurant job. She did apply at other places, including the nearby McDonald’s franchise. But nearly all of them never got back to her to schedule an interview, and she thinks a large reason for that is due to her age (she’ll turn 70 next month). She can’t prove that, of course, especially if the prospective employers do not cite a reason. But I can’t help but think she may be right in a way. This is a young person’s world now, it seems, and while Mom has always been one to be open to learning new things (she went from dental assistant to cook to housekeeper), it seems that some employers consciously practice ageism for the worse. But at least Mom is waiting to hear from another opportunity, that of caregiver to a woman who lives up the road and is suffering from the early effects of dementia. Her husband travels a lot and doesn’t always get the chance to be with her, and with no immediate family in the area, the lady will need the assistance. I hope Mom gets the role; it will pay good, and it will continue Mom’s unselfish efforts to provide the best for others.
But that’s not the only familial story I got the full view of on Thursday. I recall talking to my sister on the phone back in August about a couple of people in our lives, her mother-in-law and our oldest niece. About the mother-in-law first: She is battling breast cancer, and when I talked to Sis in August, she seemed pretty peeved about her in-law. I mean, she had a sense of disappointment in her voice, as in, “Why can’t she take care of herself better? Now she’s really sick!” And her in-law is indeed very sick, with her cancer in Stage 3 status, if not Stage 4.
Mom brought up the situation in our get-together yesterday, and she suggested the reason Sis sounded disappointed: Sis’ mother-in-law had a lump in her right breast for the past decade. The longer that lump went unchecked, the bigger it grew and the more pain it created in her chest. In fact, the lump put so much pressure on her chest muscles that her breast collapsed inward. So, she has been undergoing chemotherapy, and, yes, she has lost at least some of her hair (much of her eyebrow hair has fallen out). Sis and her family spent their Thanksgiving paying her and her husband a visit. I’m not sure how she’s holding up, but I sincerely hope she’s holding up well. I also hope Sis has put behind any upset feelings over her mother-in-law’s health; she doesn’t need that right now.
In that same phone call with my sister earlier this summer, Sis also sounded disappointed in our oldest niece — I’ll call her “Em” again for reference sake — who had just abruptly returned from her summer in Alaska. Back in August, Sis sounded as if had she been in the shoes of Em’s mom (our little sister), she would’ve made Em stay in Alaska until the time came for her to return home to Wisconsin, rather than come back because she was homesick.
But there’s another side of the story Little Sis did not elaborate to me last summer but Mom clued me in on yesterday: Em was indeed homesick. And she was missing her boyfriend. And very tired from all that sunlight the high latitudes receive every summer. And she got very, very depressed. So much so that she sneaked a bottle of her uncles’ liquor… and got tipsy… and (*sigh*) I hate to tell this to you here, but she started to cut her wrist with the broken glass. Luckily, she was stopped before doing any further damage to her body. And that was the reason she headed back from Alaska to Wisconsin early.
But that’s not the end of Em’s story. I mentioned back in September about Em getting in an accident with the truck she was driving. I did mention then that it followed an argument between Em and her boyfriend. Turns out the dude was cheating on her behind her back, and Em was breaking up with him.
And as I mentioned in that earlier post, Em did drive away from her boyfriend (er, ex-boyfriend) in a huff. And, yes, she did make way for an oncoming car. And even though she slowed down a little bit, she did lose control and hit a tree. And, yes, she did go to school and work the next day, even with a very nasty bruise on her nose. And, yes, she’s been doing all right since then.
But when Sis learned about Em’s accident back in September, the first thing out of her mouth according to what Mom told me yesterday, was, “Please don’t tell me Em tried to harm herself again.”
A couple of things I must be honest about at this point: I am glad… nay, relieved that Em is doing better and is getting counseling through her school, and is still on track to high school graduation next spring, and is likely going to continue on her current employment after that (even though she’s a bit disappointed that she likely won’t be heading off to college immediately after high school). But I admit I’m still worried about her. I just hope she will stay positive and not be prone to doing something rash.
Another thing I must admit, and what irks me the most: I can’t believe how quickly my sister can jump to conclusions about the people in her life. How she voiced disappointment in her mother-in-law for her breast cancer diagnosis. How she assumed her oldest niece was wanting to harm herself again behind a wheel (especially that!). I can’t help but think she’ll jump to conclusions with her own daughters if they were to, Lord in Heaven forbid, become seriously ill or have emotional problems. Will Sis dare to tell them “You should’ve watched your health” or “You should’ve sucked up”?
But rather than fretting over my sister making such awful assumptions, I try instead to think… nay, hope that Sis is learning a little bit of empathy toward the people in her family. I hope that she would hope for nothing but the best for her mother-in-law. I hope she will profess nothing but support for her niece. I hope that… that if I were to come out, she would offer unconditional love, and ask her daughters, husband, and everyone else in our family to offer the same. Well, I hope that would be the case.
Oh, and one more lesson that I myself should heed: Keep in contact with the rest of the family a little more. You got a phone and an e-mail. Use ’em. Long distance shouldn’t be what prevents you from knowing the important things about the important people in your life. At least spending a little bit of time with my mom on Thanksgiving day is a start.