Although I do not serve in the military, I do feel that I am a soldier of sorts. I am a soldier in my family. I am one of three soldiers in my family who try to keep the peace, keep health, keep progress, keep sanity. Keep? We work for it. And oftentimes, it is at the expense of our own. It is hard work. And when combined with the whole dynamic of family, and all the emotion of the loss of my father, this work also is expensive to us. It’s expensive in stress and sleep.
We want to do the right thing, say the right thing, and be the right people. We keep a watch on what is going on and we strive for harmony within the family. We work to keep my niece and nephew focused on their school, on their futures, on their in-home behavior and chores, on making good decisions. We try to help them with their grief. We try to inspire them, be positive, and help them through the very difficult things that they face in their home life. We struggle for time, understanding, patience. We strive to put some order in their lives.
We work with my mother, though it’s a challenge of such magnitude that what most often results is us developing our skills at keeping our mouths shut. We worry. We grapple with so many emotions and concerns, it’s near impossible to organize our conversations. Her age, her approach to grief, her depression, her drinking, her memory, her health, her diet, her refusal to get anything at all done. We are worried sick about all of it. And we divide our days and find time and step in and get so much done for her. We grocery shop, make phone calls, encourage, ask questions, clean her house, cook dinner, keep company, take to lunch or dinner. We try to nudge her into a life rather than an existence. And we try not to piss her off because she doesn’t welcome any of this. Not only does she not welcome it, she doesn’t think it necessary. We are stepping onto her turf and that’s threatening to her, very threatening. Her attitude and the way she lives her life are threatening to us. And emotionally devastating. There’s anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, exasperation, and desperation. Her footprints are all over our love for her. We grab at ideas and work through them and inevitably hit a block. Namely, her. What to do, what to do?
What we do is soldier forward every day. Our enemy is a powerful combination of circumstance and illness and stubbornness. It’s a battle we never knew we’d be facing; we would have enlisted but in all honesty we were drafted. So each and every day, we keep a look out. We remove obstacles. We pray.