Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Sister-In-Law

This post came to my first thing this morning as I opened my eyes, but instead of writing right away, I waited, and I hope it won't suffer as a result of my laziness. Yesterday was my brother's 52nd birthday. Regular followers of my blog will know that we weren't sure he would live to see this day, so it was a joyous occasion. The short version is that last January (2008) my brother suffered a heart attack. He went straight to the hospital and was diagnosed immediately and had a stent put in. He was transferred to another facility where he developed A.R.D.S. (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and was in a coma and on full life support until the very end of April. After coming out of the coma he required intensive therapy at a rehab center. He was finally released for home just before Thanksgiving this past year. He still needs a walker, braces and has many challenges, but when we think of what could have happened, we realize how blessed we are just to have my brother still around.

This all got me to thinking about my sister in law. She is an intensely private person, preferring to keep it all to herself. She loves deeply and fully, but isn't the demonstrative type. My brother and she have two sons, the oldest of whom was in his senior year of high school when his dad fell ill, and is now in his first year of college. The youngest is in middle school. My sister in law is a teacher. She works as a substitute for teachers on leave, generally in the high school, although sometimes in the middle high level. During the entire 11 plus months this was all going on (not that it STILL isn't mind you!) she was working full time, taking care of the two boys, and driving over 2 hours each way in all kinds of weather to visit my brother every single day (even when he was comatose for 4months straight). Now we may disagree on somethings, but that takes an awful lot of sacrifice, drive, strength and love - I don't think anyone would disagree with that!

We have a weird relationship, she doesn't call often or even give us regular updates on my brother. But I have such respect for her despite that, because she loves my brother completely and she shows it with her actions towards him. I feel nothing short of awe towards her. I think I started thinking about her not only because of my brother's birthday, but because I was already seeing references to Valentines Day everywhere on TV and the web. I am an odd girl when it comes to Valentines Day, I really feel it is a greeting card holiday made up to make people spend money and feel badly about themselves. You want to see true love? Show me the spouse who gets up at 5am, gets the kids ready for school, herself ready for work (educating other people's kids for 8 hours!) and then drives two hours in the snow and ice on the Long Island Expressway to sit beside my brother's comatose body just so she can hold his hand and stroke his hair and whisper how much she loves and needs him. I'll take that any day over a box of chocolates or a dozen roses! And I know my brother, he'd have done the same thing for her. They don't have a dream marriage, in fact, they have had more than their share of problems, health, financial and otherwise - but they are still together and still in love. They embody what the vows mean.

So although we may not be as close as I'd like and we may not speak as often as I wish, this Valentine's Day I know who I will be thinking of. I want to dedicate this Valentine's Day to all the spouses everywhere (I'm talking about you - Annie, Terri, Brian and John!) who take care of their spouses each and every day, not because you HAVE to but because you want to, because you love them. YOU are the real valentine's, the romance stories and the white knights because you show that true love exists, not in the Hallmark way, but in the real world way. You slug it out in the trenches each day and come back for more. Thank you for loving my brother, my friends, your spouses and for showing me what is truly possible.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning Brian. He IS a great help. I don't know what I'd do without him! Happy Valentine's Day! Hugs! :)

Anonymous said...

What an awesome real life story about your sister-in-law. I have to nominate my husband, Shawn for this too as he is always there for me. He may not have to care for me every day, but when he does, he does so without a murmur of frustration. I love him so!

Anonymous said...

Maureen, what a beautiful post about TRUE love and sharing your sister inlaw and brothers story to show what it is. Thank you for naming my husband whose love continually amazes does my wondering how I came to be the beneficiary of it.

You related this to Valentine's Day and Maureen in so doing you've given light to why we celebrate it. It isn't the hallmark cards, or the chocolate (but chocolates good!), it's to stop for a minute and honor true love. True love doesn't just come in romantic packages, but it lives between friends, family members etc..It is made of hardwork and deep commitment. You live true love everyday Maureen in caring for your mom.

Thank you for this heart touching, thought provoking post, Kerry

Daryl said...

What a lovely post

One Mom said...

You have a knack of cutting through to the heart of things (no pun intended) but I have to share with you that I don't feel like I'm slugging it out in the trenches.

Al has been a gift to me and it is my honor and pleasure to love him in whatever way I can. Granted our life certainly isn't what we expected but it has given us the opportunity to love one another on a level many people may never experience. For that I am very grateful.


Debra said...

This is my first time visiting your blog and reading this post really touched my heart. I lost my only sibling, my younger brother, at the age of 41 just a little less than a year ago. The past year has been very difficult and I would give almost anything to have my brother back again. Like you, I live with chronic illness but I try not to let it get the best of me. I save that for my family.

Give your brother a call and tell him how much you appreciate your SIL. It will be good for the both of them.