Lots of heart in home issue
Last article, we met Jules, the adult son of Arbed and Fred. Jules had been worried about his aging parents who still reside in their self-built family home. The multi-story home is where Jules and his brother and sister were raised.
His siblings reside in the west. Neither attended our first session. Jules’ wife, Petey, was unable to attend. Both Jules and Petey were caregivers for Arbed and Fred. They worried that mom and dad weren’t able to maintain their home by themselves. Arbed used a walker for his support. Labeled as “stubborn” by Jules, Fred and Arbed weren’t easily moved by his worries.
The session ended on an interesting note: Arbed suggested that I join them for a home visit. A first-hand experience may enlighten me as to each party’s position, stubborn or not. All were in agreement’ and a time was scheduled. I requested a two-hour slot in order to gain a cursory view of this family’s dynamics as well as their day to day life.
Directions were made simple. They were in a rural setting surrounded by woods and meadows. True to their description, I rode down a lengthy dirt driveway until catching sight of a gorgeous three-level home. Jules met me outside and waved me onto the deck.
The view was breathtaking. Rolling green hills, hardwood forest, and a raging stream from winter’s snow and spring melt only began to amaze me. Jules’ wife, Petey, greeted me inside the home. Furnishings ranging from antique to hippie adorned the living room. I instantly felt the warmth of the woodstove. We joined Fred and Arbed at their lengthy kitchen table. The unmistakable aroma of apple pie overtook my sense of smell.
I shook their hands and sat between the two couples. A fresh pot of peppermint tea sat in the middle of the table.
Thank you for inviting me to your home. What I’ve seen so far is lovely. You have a little bit of heaven here. I accepted some fresh brewed tea. The tea, pie, and wood stove serenaded my olfactory lobe. The energy in the room was calm and peaceful. I feel a sense of comfort here. Is that your experience, Fred and Arbed? I was a visitor in their home. How easy for me to be distracted. I returned to reality. Nice meeting you, Petey. I heard that you are an integral part of this family. Also, I understand that you complement Jules as caregiver for your in-laws.
“That’s correct. We’ve been married over 20 years. I really love my in-laws. On, yes, they drive me crazy if you know what I mean?”
No, I don’t know. Please elaborate, Petey.
“I am family oriented. I come from a close family. I have regular healthy contact with my four siblings. We have two kids, both girls. They love to come here. You can see for yourself that this home is a magnet for people who long for an old-fashioned environment. The girls help with chores, stacking firewood with grandpa or cooking and baking with grandma.
We all feel healthy here. Years of birthdays, anniversaries, and ‘just because’ celebrations were never dull. Yes, Jules and I have our own home. We make it comfortable for our family and for visitors. I long ago gave up the notion that special holidays should be shared. Arbed and Fred are warm, kind, and generous people. I married into a great family. But … now all this comfort, history, and joy are facing a time for change. I love giving of my time and energy to these great people. Bet you don’t hear this too much in your work.”
I smiled and said nothing.
Jules chimed in. “My parents are facing the inevitable. Both have physical limitations and no longer can maintain this home. I loved growing up here. We had dogs, cats, and tropical fish. We had woods to explore. My parents were always spiritually oriented. They believed in God, being a good person, being kind to others and sharing their bounty and comforts. I have vast memories of their generosity to friends, family and neighbors. They took in strays, both the four and two-legged ones. Creatures enjoyed dad’s lap and mom’s handouts. Both of them told stories of their work in the helping fields. We learned lots of valuable life lessons. Though they had vast experiences, they didn’t boast or lecture. Now, like Petey says, they can’t be here anymore. They struggle to negotiate stairs. Both have fallen and kind of sluff it off. This is when I get upset, mad, and frustrated with them. I’ve talked to each one alone and together. They want us to believe they have the capability to remain in their home. They can’t, plain and simple.”
I looked over at Fred and Arbed who sat stoically. Arbed took hold of her cane, stood up and announced, “Who wants a piece of pie?” If this family dynamic were a television program, Arbed was announcing a commercial. Jules and Petey sat back in their respective chairs.
“You see,” Jules said, “this is what happens when we discuss this subject.”
I looked at Petey and Jules. Maybe it’s their way of avoiding conflict. Let’s eat some pie. Was it ever delicious! Refusing a second piece had no place in my weary mind. We would continue after the break. Fred sat and smiled. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org.