Okay, I confess. It’s almost 10:30 in the morning and I just now realized it’s not Monday, it’s Tuesday. It’s not my fault – all my mental markers are off. The kids had their first day back at school today, not yesterday, after a long spring break. And today my husband didn’t go to his usual auction due to a schedule change. So I’m feeling like it’s Monday mentally. Well, I don’t have any appointments outside the house so I guess it doesn’t matter.
Abdallah was the mensch of his generation. He started out broke and worked his way up until he had a lucrative and powerful job in the marketing department of the Austrian Embassy. He was very generous with his money. You always knew you could go to Abdallah for help with a payment, or money for a nice wedding, or to help pay someone’s school fees. He gave so much away but never took care of himself. He’d forget to eat or not want to spend a few piasters for a bowl of lentils or a fuul sandwich while he was out of the house. He didn’t spend any money on dental care, and lost all his teeth. He did this while buying expensive rugs, dishwashers, washing machines, and other things for his three adult children. He spent lavishly on others but was content with little for himself And now? And now….
When we see an elderly person in this condition, sometimes we think to ourselves “Ya Allah, please don’t reduce me to this! I’d rather go out in a train wreck than return to the status of an infant, looking to others for all my needs”. We don’t have any control over what is going to happen to us, whether we will be hale and hearty into old age, or doddering and of foggy mind. We may be at the mercy of others, and human beings can be far, far less merciful than Allah.
We’re bringing Abdallah home today, and we’ll do our best to keep him clean, fed, and comfortable. My husband is already exhaused from the hospital back-and-forth, and now he’s trying to figure out how we are going to juggle work, five kids, keeping the household running, and taking care of his dad. He’s got a huge burden on his shoulders, but he understands all about love, mercy, and duty, and he does not shy away from it. He welcomes the opportunity to earn the blessing from Allah for taking care of his dad, as he took care of his mom over the years during a long chronic illness that finally took her life. He tells Allah thank you for the chance to earn reward, but he’s also praying that he can have a little relief and that the daily toll is not too heavy for him. I’ll be backstopping him and doing what I can to help, but the lion’s share of the work is his.
So, what’s in our future? Allah knows. The hospital staff thinks we are either saints or crazy, trying to take care of an elderly invalid. We don’t have any insurance so we don’t qualify for most services – Abdallah’s immigration has been stuck in “pending” status for two years. We don’t have a large extended family to help carry the load, so it will be mostly him and me and some helpful brothers pressganged into service after asr prayer inshaAllah to help us with the transportation. Some of the nurses even suggested we just leave him at the hospital, claiming poverty and an inability to care for him, and just leave them to find some nook or cranny to jam him into. That was not an option. We are not saints, I think we are not crazy. We are just doing what needs to be done, no fanfare, no wringing of hands or remonstrating to the heavens “Why me?”. We are taking care of a family member who is in need. Isn’t that what people do?
When Abdallah is home, I’m praying he won’t be so quiet and depressed like he has been much of the week in the hospital. InshaAllah, having the kids coming and going, the cats jumping up on the table to say hi, being able to listen to Qur’an and lectures from the computer, all the normalcy will help perk him up a bit. I know he’s confused, sad, mad, helpless. It’s our job to comfort him and do the best we can. After all, those kids, my kids, his grandkids, are watching. They’re getting a lesson in Islam right now. They are learning that you don’t just discard parents when they are old and inconvenient; you do the right thing, even if it’s hard and it makes you tired and it means you don’t get to go play as much as you want. All the talk in the world won’t teach this lesson, but seeing us taking care of their grandfather with love and compassion and kind words will. InshaAllah, if my husband and I live to be doddering old people, our kids will remember and will do what is necessary to take care of us with love and kindness. Even if I were childless I’d still do the right thing by my father-in-law, but knowing I have kids who inshaAllah will be there for me is a comforting thought.