As I shared in my last blog, at age five, I understood roller skating to my neighbor; Auntie Alice was a respite from the chaos of my home. Due to my father’s injury, my mother had become the sole financial provider for our family of seven.
As a result of my grandmother’s extreme mental illness when she was not a patient in the state mental hospital, her care was shared between my mother and maternal uncle. As a child, my heart ached to see my grandmother’s mental and emotional condition, sobbing when visiting her at the hospital. Although young, I understood these patients’ dignity and self-respect were striped away. They were treated only slightly better than a family pet.
Therefore, even though Grandma was a challenge, I was always happy she was with us. She didn’t always grasp her surroundings, but I did. With Grandma’s illness and my father’s injury, neither of them could care for us children. I was designated the day-time care giver for my brother, less than two years of age and my sister, an infant.
This was not discussed, but mandated. As my mother departed daily for her employment at the local green house, she left bottles of milk for my sister and instructions to change her diapers often. I was also instructed to prepare lunch.
Mom’s arrival home was seldom pleasant. Her mood was agitated. Now as an adult, I realize the burden of caring for our family of five, plus the challenges of her mentally ill mother and the addition of my uncle, was solely on her tiny, frail shoulders. Mom never had the life she had desired. Thus, her unfulfilled dreams also altered my life as a child and later as an adult.
The charming house in northern OH which Dad built himself, would become a mere memory. For my parents, it was the last home they would own until almost twenty years later. Our residence there was short-term following Dad’s accident. In less than five years, our family of five moved six separate times.
Because I had been given the role of “care-giver”, I was also assigned the task of maid and chef during my mother’s absence. As the boxes were moved into an aged, rented farmhouse, I was instructed to unpack all the kitchen items and place them in the cabinets. My memory is as vivid today as then. I had to walk on the counters to reach the tall cabinets, but my task was completed without breaking even one glass or dish.
What a tremendous disappointment when less than 72 hours later, my Dad announced we were moving from that house into another. All the work of unpacking was now left to me to repack. This would be the saga of moving in and out of homes in four different OH towns over the next four years.
Hebrews 6:10 NIV, “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”