Got a chicken in the pot today, stewing away with some vegetables, destined for a big pan of chicken and noodles to send over to our friend with lung cancer.
This is a sad story that seems to be getting sadder. Not necessarily the prognosis -- she doesn't yet know if her chemotherapy has been effective in battling her disease; I take her to get her first post-chemo MRI tomorrow. But I detect a certain loss of hope in our friend, who wasn't in good health even before her diagnosis; and part of that may be due to living in her household, with yappy, needy small dogs, a difficult elderly mother-in-law who spends all day motionless in a kitchen chair, smoking and grumping about the lack of "fun" in her life, and a mostly-absent partner who, at least to us, seems to be drawing back emotionally as well in a cutting-her-losses kind of way. I'm not going to judge; this may be denial or depression or fatigue or tough-girl bravado: "I can handle this." But it's obvious to two outsiders, let alone her partner.
Fellow Traveler and I tend to have boundary issues in the other direction. But we, along with a sympathetic neighbor, have been taking our friend to her medical appointments; and when we learned that the other partner was not even attempting to make meals, leaving the sick partner and Mama scrounging the kitchen for food on a catch-as-catch-can basis, we decided to commit to making two meals a week for the family -- an entree and either a side dish or fruit dessert, enough for an evening meal and leftovers for lunch. We've been making one scratch meal and one "semi-homemade" meal using various boxed food products as a base for an entree.
This work has meaning for me. I've been enjoying creating menus to take over there, and preparing the food. And on some level it seems like a kind of karmic do-over for the years when my mentally ill aunt was in a downward spiral, my mother was too anxious and enmeshed in 40-year-old sibling issues to respond to that in very effective ways, and I was so angry and unhappy with my life at the time that I -- like our sick friend's partner -- just disassociated myself from the whole thing until I was forced by circumstances to step in and be proactive on my aunt's behalf. And I also remember, in my grumpy 30's and early 40's, being consumed with that same inward-turned resentment expressed by our friend's mother-in-law, in the midst of my aunt's mental breakdown and my mother's increasing fragility and anxiety-paralysis: I'm not having any fun. When is it going to be my time to have fun? Ouch.
You can teach an old dog, I hope, new tricks; it's taken me almost 50 years to get compassion in a gut-level way, but I'm trying to get a handle on it, day by day.