Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pulling the red chord

I was talking to my mum this afternoon on the phone. My sister Carla was around visiting, with granddaughter, Kira, but it wasn’t until they had both left that my mum began to share some really personal issues that she felt she couldn’t say while my sister was there.

On thing that underlined the whole thing was the issue of asking for help. My mum had been so independent for so long. Even with failing sight and hearing, she refuses to give in and admit weaknesses.

She moved into sheltered housing a number of years ago, and with all the government’s penny pinching and cost effectiveness, there is no longer a warden for the scheme. There are still red triangles on strings around the flat that my mum can pull on and help arrives eventually, but she because she doesn’t know the people who respond, she doesn’t want to be a bother. She will have her bad moments when she needs help but does not ask. I was trying to tell her that only by pulling the red chord as often as she needs to will the authorities realise that she needs the care.

Part of the problem is that she does not want to enter into a deeper level of the care system. She always said that once she lost her sight completely, then she would go into a proper nursing home. There are so many other areas in her life that she is not coping with and I think she is beginning to think that perhaps the time has come to evaluate where she is at.

My family are marvellous in their support, particularly Carla’s family. They take her shopping once a week, clean the flat for her once a week and pop around every so often. My mum knows that she can phone them anytime and, for the most part, they will come. My brother, Richard, is also close by and contactable.

I think what is really eating my mum up is that she feels that she is becoming a burden to them. I know that when I came back from Cyprus, I lived with my parents for a couple of years, and much as my mum loved having me around, she wanted me to have my own life and not end up looking after them both. She wants us to live our lives without worrying about her.

We had a good chat about different agencies that could take some of the pressure off. Between visits, my mum is pretty much housebound. She is shaky on her feet and very anxious about moving among people. I don’t know what level of service something like Shopmobility can provide. She also has money worries. She gets a care allowance that she doesn’t make the best use of, and the bank would like her not to keep so much of it in an easily accessible account.

My mum is a courageous lady, but her courage is just leaking out. She is becoming afraid of different aspects of life.

We also talked about church. Different people in churches have different gifts, and I thought maybe someone with money sense could help her make the best of her money, and just watch her account. I know that Joe’s brother, John does that for my mother-in-law. Again this idea of asking cropped up. My mum thought she would burst into tears is she had to talk it over with someone. If you can’t cry in front of your church family – where else is there?

I got to thinking about whether I feel comfortable crying in front of my church family. No one feel comfortable crying, let’s admit it, but there has to be somewhere you can just take off the amour, put down the sword and rest from the battle. I have a wonderful church – and, yes, I can and often do burst into tears when things get a little too much. But why wait until things get too much? Why wait until the burden is unbearable? Why do we keep things hidden for long? Why don’t we pull the red chord more often?

Is it a pride thing? Or a trust thing? Or a message that the church is giving out that it shouldn’t be?

I thought about whether it was time to perhaps think about moving back to Warwickshire. I don’t think for a moment that I can offer anything more than Carla and Richard do, but I really feel powerless to help. Maybe the best help I can be is to give her a chance to simply off-load the issues that are building up, much like a pressure cooker valve. A book I am reading at the moment suggests that women when they talk about their problems are not always looking for solutions, they just want to talk and have someone listen.

1 comment:

Mark H said...

I think you've got your finger on a very important issue here, one that I've been mulling over for some time.

When I ask people how they are and they reply with a very brief "fine" what is going on? Is my question insincere? Am I just exchanging pleasantries? Would I be horrified if they opened-up and I actually needed to stop what I was doing, really listen, and engage with them? I pray that I can come over with sincerity when I ask "how are you?" and that I really would be prepared to stop what I was doing and listen, depending on the answer.

What about when someone asks me how I am and I reply with a very short "fine", when really I could say a little more about whatever challenges me right now and ask for some prayer, some advice, or simply the opportunity to off-load? Again, do I think that we're just exchanging social pleasantries?

Part of it is the world's culture. We're independent. We don't make ourselves vulnerable to one another. We don't show weakness. We may want to serve one another, but we're not prepared to make the time to do it properly. We're always busy with things that seem more important than the people around us. That's not Kingdom.

Part of it is setting. We often ask how one another is at the the most inopportune time to get a real answer, or when it's obviously not possible to provide room to really help one another. We can do something about that by practising genuine hospitality rather than being ships that pass in the night.

I'm as challenged as you are. The church is built on relationships and there's always opportunity to improve in this area.

There's two things I can think of doing right now. First, when I'm about to ask someone how they are, I can first check that I really do have the time to ask the question properly, and that they can see that is the case, e.g. I'm not already busy with something else. Second, when someone asks me how I am, then I can pause before responding "fine" on auto-pilot, and provide a more considered answer. It's not much, but it's a start.