Monday, August 09, 2010

Meals on Wheels

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.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...


I'm sure you'll be blessed for what you are committed to, even if the blessing doesn't come from those you're helping.

Maybe it is part of life to be able to step in where we can in order to keep some perspective & balance.

Hope you are well.