It was about three quarters of the way through my non-stop caregiving of my mother as she was recovering from her car accident injuries when my brain just clicked to an off position. I didn't mean to do it, but I want to be honest. It happened.
For weeks I'd been handling a lot: her totalled out car, all insurance matters, her doctor appointments, her medications, meals along with another sister, and driving along with two others. More than anything else, I was spending a lot of time sitting next to her on her couch. Because I know that sitting sometimes is the kindest thing you can offer.
There was a lot of talk in my family at the time about whether my mother and stepfather could continue to live on their own. There was a sister who wanted my mom to come live with her. I began to look into Jewish agencies that could help my mom stay in her house, that could help her as an elderly member of the Jewish community and as a Holocaust Survivor, while I was still running, running, running, and bringing a lot of food.
I was sitting on the couch next to my mom during the visit with the social worker when she asked my mom how she would feel about receiving a delivered meal per day free of charge from a wonderful deli in town. I heard this and I lit up like a cartoon character. I was gleeful, transported. Food, ma! For free!
But my mother says to the social worker, "No. I don't need any food. Linda and her sister are giving me all I need. I don't need any help, they're doing everything."
That's when I clicked off. I suddenly realized we were actually sitting there with the social worker not so much for the help my mother needed but for the help I needed. I was the one with the problem. My mother was fine; she was being taken care of. It's her 50-year-old daughter who was falling to pieces.
So it turns out there really is no free lunch. Not metaphorically and not those literal free lunches they wanted to deliver to my mother. There's only me, buying a challah, mixing up chicken salad, bringing it to her house, and sitting.