Messiness is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Gattina, our host over at Writer's Cramps ,wants to see a photo of what we'd call our messy place. If I were still working, it would be my entire office. Colleagues used to stick their heads in my work space and mutter something like "You better hope the fire marshal doesn't show up." or "This must be your job security--who would be willing to clear out this place if you were ever fired?" That was some time ago, three years to be exact since I retired.
In my home I live a very pared down existence with minimum stuff to leave messy. However, I do have a messy situation in my life that causes conflict and frustration--the challenge of caring for an older sister with whom I have very little in common. We are the yin and yang sisters.
My sister and I were about the same age, probably 14 or 15, when these photos were taken. M (on the left) is nine years older than I. Recently I've been scanning and organizing family photos and when I studied these photos of us side by side I thought: we are so different on every level. And, it got me thinking about how different our life paths have taken. We could not be further apart in personality and interests. I see these contrasts in our photos and the effects on our relationship now--over 40 years later. Over the past year, my care taking responsibilities for M have grown--to what seems like full time some weeks. This is not how I planned to live out retirement years. I hoped to spend my eagerly anticipated retirement years freely pursuing a quiet, creative, almost scholarly lifestyle. However, that's not my current reality.
My family has never been very close. Now it's only my sister and me left except for a brother in another state who doesn't involve himself in our lives. That's the way it has always been. My sister left school at 16 and stayed home with my parents, working for a few years as a housekeeper/babysitter. She never married, nor did I--one thing we have in common. I loved school and saw an education as the way to ensure a happy independent future for myself. I left home for college and never returned, managing to graduate from college without any support, financial or otherwise, from my family. Work took me to many different places, but never back to my parents' house except for obligatory visits.
After my parents died, M lived independently, which was just the way she liked it. She dealt with some chronic illnesses, but nothing serious. She built a big network of friends, keeping in touch with many people by phone and extensive correspondence. She never learned to drive which was not a big issue in the small town where she lived. I made regular trips to see her and help with any business that she couldn't sort out. I will have to admit that these were strictly duty visits--a stepping up to the plate because no one else would. I became my sister's "fixer."
About this time last year I had to re-locate my sister to Louisville, where I live. She lost her apartment to a fire and her health and ability to manage on her own was declining. We had a rough few months trying to live under one roof. And there was a lot of stress in having to sort out all the red tape of moving her, finding her new housing, and lining up medical and legal provisions for her ongoing care. I did this alone without much cooperation from M. But, after a year, things are on an even keel. My sister enjoys her safe new apartment and the companionship of other women her age in the apartment building. She has good medical care and never has to worry about affording her prescriptions. She spends her days chatting with friends, watching TV, and keeping up her extensive correspondence. I live about 10 minutes from her so am always on call for chauffeuring, shopping, laundressing, business responsibilities. I am my sister's fixer. Most days my "halo" is a bit crooked because I think: how did this happen? And why is it that in every family there plays out this same drama? Mostly though I feel sadness and regret that I've lost the freedom to live the way I always planned without being bound by someone else's needs and expectations.
Now dear readers, this is the closest you'll ever see of me lying on the virtual psychoanalyst's couch on this blog. I usually go for something happier here. But, if we're sharing the "messy" places around us, this yin and yang sister relationship would have to be what I'd write about. What about you? Are you dealing with the same issues? If so, how do you manage?
Be sure to hop over the Gattina's place and see what other messes need tidying up.
(Image credit for yin yang symbol at the top of post: www.redbubble.com )
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.