The Memory of Kindness
I once wrote a poem that Kristi stands for kindness but she actually sat together with me on her kitchen bar stools. I am reminded of this kindness as winter approaches, a chill sends us scurrying inside, the darkness forces us to find light and warmth. This is en especially challenging time for caregivers who need reminding to care for themselves. But equally important, to remind others who may have contact with caregivers to take them into your circle. Share with them your kindness. Because kindness has a memory.
Years ago, I was in Seattle caring for my first husband who was undergoing a stem cell transplant. The apartment manager was constantly updating the lobby in order to improve upon not his good fortune, but to light up the lives of those who stayed there. He took a liking to our son and arrived at our door one evening, with a bike and a keyboard, playdough kit and a soccer ball. No one will ever forget the surprised look on my son’s face when he began poking at the keys. Of course, we soon learned how to turn down the sound. But I will remember that look in my son’s caramel apple eyes. He will remember, maybe not the house manager or his name, but the kindness associated with that act. Some day, he will do the same.
Kindness has a memory, I tell myself. That is why I remember Kristi, who sat for hours, listening, probing, caring, while I grieved my husband’s death. She cared for me, when I had completed my task of caring for my husband and couldn’t care a less about myself. She reached out daily to share a hug, a smile, a barstool and candy molds for unmentionables. She is where I went when I didn’t know how to be kind to myself.
I recall the National Family Caregivers Association (http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org/) promoting three tenets of caregiving: Believe in Yourself, Protect Your Health, Reach Out for Help. As much as we would like to think we are empowered to believe, protect and reach out, some days I was just too darned tired to do so. And that is when kindness stepped in. On the days that I couldn’t get out of bed, coffee and donuts arrived at my door and made me believe in living if for that day only. On days when I couldn’t lift a finger in the kitchen, or didn’t care to, kindness arrived like Mary Alice in Desperate Housewives, perfectly timed, perfectly prepared, to protect my health and my son.
Kindness has a memory. Not for specifics, but in my genes, in my cells, I feel a wave of gratitude as I reminisce about the kindness of mere strangers. Perhaps as the caregiver I was not feeling all too empowered to greet up each new morn. But Kristi felt empowered. She knocked and I let her in. And that power translated into energy for me, on days when I needed it the most. I guess that’s why I surround myself from mementos from that time – a rock here, an old phone bill, a picture, a pencil. I even have the bar stool pillow, located out of reach but not out of sight, to remind me the soft landing she offered after my husband died. When I merged with my new family, the bike was outgrown, the soccer ball busted and the playdough had dried to a flake, but the keyboard survived the cut. Occasionally some youngster will begin plunking on the keyboard and the broken hum of hot cross buns in a disco style will send a shot of warmth to my soul.
I believe we are a world waiting for kindness to come in and sit in our kitchen. So we shouldn’t let it get too late before knocking on that door or someone may not rise up in the morn.