We Were Never The Waltons

The holidays are almost upon us, and what’s supposed to be an occasion for good cheer and family bonding can often turn into added stress for caregivers.

At those times, I think we expect even more from ourselves and from other family members – creating the picture-perfect meal with everyone smiling around the table and getting along. I don’t know about you, but my family was never the Walton’s, even before my folks became ill.

What often saved me was trying to stay in the moment, and let go of the need to have everything just right, including those sibling relationships that became strained over time.

The year my mother was in a rehab facility during Thanksgiving was a perfect example. Our family was fractured, but one of my siblings and I took the meal to her in a mountain of Tupperware containers. The plates were chipped; the napkins were paper; the flowers were wilted; and the tablecloth had seen better days. But there was laughter, shared memories and gratitude for the time we spent together, and that’s really what Thanksgiving is all about.

Wishing you all some much-needed peace this holiday.

Kitchen Table Memories

kitchen table

Photo Credit: Milkmit (Creative Commons)

As caregivers, we’re so busy putting out fires, and dealing with health care crises that our parents can sometimes feel more like projects to be managed. Here’s to those moments, sometimes few and far between, when we can simply enjoy each other’s company. For my mom and me, it was sitting in the kitchen, sipping coffee, eating lox and bagels, playing Scrabble and laughing over family stories from long ago.   Maybe that’s why this poem by Joy Harjo resonated so deeply. It’s a reminder that lifelong memories can be created in the most ordinary places.

Perhaps The World Ends Here by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Do you have a kitchen table memory? Share it here or just stop by and introduce yourself. You’ll be entered in a drawing on August 31st to receive a free copy of The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir. Winner’s name will be selected using the tool at random.org.