#15: Always stand by your family.
I will quote my dad in saying that his mother was a “wonderful but psychotic woman.” For the first few years of my life, she lived in the house with us… and it wasn’t without trouble. The main source of contention for my grandmother (who I called Safta, which is Hebrew for grandma) was between her and my mother. And it centered around, well, fruit.
Safta constantly accused my mother of stealing her plums. She would scream and holler that there were undoubtedly, plums missing. Soon enough, the accusations spread to tomatoes. My mom, the plum-tomato criminal, set up Safta her own refrigerator, freezer and sink, in hope to avoid jail time. Safta also clashed with my babysitters. The first one, she claimed, was neglecting me -which, in her defense, may or may not have been true. When Merle came along (the housekeeper we have had for almost 20 years now), she clashed with her as well. But, despite the hard time Safta often gave other members of my family, she always favored me. She would allow me to do backflips on her walker, despite my dad’s constant protest.
Eventually, we put Safta in a nursing home. As I mentioned in a previous post, this nursing home is actually the one I currently volunteer at. She blamed my mother for the move, though luckily, her tomatoes and plums were safe. Every Sunday, my father and I would go to visit her. She would scream at him and sometimes even turn him away, but we always went. When her other sons came, she treated them the same, if not worse. But when her grandchildren came to see her, she was always filled with joy.
I was never affected by anything Safta did until one day, she asked me to sit on her lap. She was such a frail woman (in her early 90’s) that I was always afraid that even my little 8-year-old body would crush her. Upon taking a gentle seat, Safta began whispering in my ears something along the lines that it was “my mother’s fault that she was here.” I was taken aback, destroyed, and I sprang up and ran away from her room in tears.
After that incident, I didn’t visit Safta for a month. Only after my father told me that she missed me and didn’t know what she had done wrong, did I agree to start coming again. But, of course, something was different.
It was not until after she passed away did I begin to regret that month I didn’t visit her. My father had endured so much difficulty from her and still came back to see her, every single week. Yet after one episode, I had run away.
I realize now what an important lesson I learned those days in the nursing home. It takes a lot to tolerate a difficult family member, but even more to stand by one. I volunteer at the nursing home that Safta was at, maybe with a glimmer of hope that I can make up for the time that I abandoned. No matter the craziness, fights, and things you maybe shouldn’t forgive (under other circumstances), family is family.
Cover image taken from http://www.momscleanairforce.org/files/2012/03/grandmas-for-clean-air2.jpg