caregiving

Steward of the Earth

Isn’t that a lovely way to refer to someone?

One of my dearest friends used this phrase to describe my mom last week. I was telling her about my mom and recycling – again. My mom immediately adopted the recycling opportunities as soon as they became an option in Virginia Beach. Initially this meant collecting and then driving to drop off locations. An obstacle she was willing to tackle.

The passion she feels about protecting the Earth for our future generations has not slipped her mind, even when images of her own mother have alluded her. When she first moved to Indiana to live with us, recycling was a norm in our household. However, I quickly learned more could be recycled. I had to order a second tote to collect all the recycling that 7 plus people were generating.

If you have boys that do not always listen, you may have encountered a week when the recycling cans that boys swore they would roll to the curb, remained in their positions on the side of the house. Well, not to worry!!! My mom had the solution. Piece by piece, she emptied each of the 64 gallon totes. Re-cleaned any pieces that might have had remnants of food, then collapsing and consolidating piece into piece. Maybe saving an item or two- that could definitely be used for something! All her efforts to make space for new recycling until the next pick up date, two weeks later.

The behavior continued with my mom (with the boys too, on occasion HA). However, it became obsessive and compulsive for Granny. Even when space was not an issue, my mom felt compelled to go through the trash and recycling – sorting, cleaning, collapsing, consolidating and saving an item (or two or three or…). More than once I recall coming up the driveway and seeing all of the totes emptied onto our shrubs (because the shrubs were a considered a good surface space and the perfect height). Having the items laid out, allowed her to try multiple sorting options. None of which were necessary! Absolutely I thought, “OMG what are the people thinking that are driving by?” Again, we have already covered that I am human. Then my heart sinks and thinks, “Why is this what she chose to do?”

Harmless activity? Maybe. What makes it of concern? First – metal cans. Mom is not aware of when she cuts herself. Even if she happens to see blood, it does not register that it should be cleaned or to check the depth of the cut. Hmmm, cut by metal? Yep, that is a risk for tetanus. She continues without attention to the wound. Let’s review- she is going through trash that has already been taken to the outside cans. Maybe a chance of germs? Finally, the compulsion becomes so intense, she doesn’t come inside when outside weather dangers loom. I have been forced to plead and drag her inside on more than one occasion.

Although it is winter now and she is not outside, she regularly goes through the small inside bins where we collect recycling. She pulls items back out of recycling to keep for a future use. Seems harmless you say? Well it is until every counter, each cabinet and all hiding spaces are full of items that could be used, maybe one day. Instead of a drinking glass, I find mom using an empty beet jar as a glass. The reason this behavior upsets me, mom has worked hard through her life and has beautiful water glasses to use; they sit collecting dust instead. I want her to enjoy what is around her – not to be visually buried by trash (or recycling).

Last week, I walked into mom’s kitchen and she immediately asked me to go get the label maker. With the maker in hand, I asked “What are we labeling?” In front of me on the counter I see four glasses full of used straws and 4 metal straws. I was handed a piece of paper on which mom had attempted to categorize the straws by flexibility and color. Looking at it, almost brought tears. (I should have taken a photo) It was like seeing her brain on paper. It made no sense, but it reflected exactly what was in her head and explains why there is a struggle. There were totals. There were colors. There were adjectives describing the malleability of the straws with numbers next to them. All of that work, yet it did not match what she had created on the counter.

She believed it was important to sort the straws so she could use them. With lots of convincing she conceited to allow us to recycle the single use straws that had been used multiple times. A few had to have been used for coffee so many times they were stained brown on the inside of the clear straw. Others you could see “growth” on the inside. Ewww! They were quickly taken to the outside tote, so they would not be put back into a drawer. In the end we labeled two glasses for the remaining straws. Straws, bendable, SINGLE USE ONLY. And Straws, not flexible, multi-use.

Understand my struggle IS witnessing a literal rocket scientist, my mom, struggling with a pointless task she invented and believes to be important. One of my besties, understands me and knows my mom. I wasn’t ranting to her. Just sad and sharing, when she said, “Your mom is a Steward of the Earth”. I don’t know why, but it bought me peace for that day and that moment.

I will continue to go on recon missions to get unnecessary recycling out of mom’s home, so she has a chance to enjoy her treasured possessions instead. However, I will try and honor my mom’s need to be a Steward of the Earth, by compulsively recycling in order to help future generations. (As long as she doesn’t get sliced with metal can lids!)

Does anyone else experience this? Does it hurt to watch your loved one struggle with a innocuous activity? I have come to realize part of this is me wanting what my mom once was, back. And struggling to accept there is not anything I can do to make that a reality.

If you are out there and can relate to this type of situation, I pray that you have a support system that lets you talk, cry or scream – whatever you need. Take solace in that support. For today, for me, my mom is a Steward of the Earth. Maybe it isn’t a friend’s words, it is a passage from a book that speaks to you in a moment or a verse of a song, I believe they are placed in front of us to help. Hey, even if I am wrong, it helps me through some of those low points. Who is that hurting?

I hope you can find a moment of support. I am always here knowing you are fighting every day for your loved one. They know it too, even if they no longer can say it.

Thank you for being here with me,

Marguerite

The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Psalms 32:8

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