Xingfu means happy and blessed in Chinese. Even though 2014, the year I started this blog, was a busy and, at times, difficult year that is the word I thought of for this space. Mama not because I have many children but because I seem to fall into a caregiving role. Sometimes I feel like Mama to the world.
The name XingfuMama means Happy Mama with undertones of being blessed.
In continuing to try and explain (mostly to myself) about my grandmother and how the relationship has changed and affected me, politics needs to be mentioned. Because of the wide disparity of views, and the way they have caused animosity, and, at times, complete ruptures within the family.
My grandparents liked Ike, and tricky Dick (a misunderstood soul), and absolutely adored Ronnie. Any tax was too much…but why should the government be so stingy with social security benefits, and the roads sure need fixing. Their loyalty and belief in the Republican Party was greater than their loyalty and belief in God, if actions are any guide.
My uncle didn’t serve in Vietnam because of a bum knee (I was pretty young when this drama unfolded, so I may be off by a few inches about the body part). That was a disappointment to my WWII veteran grandfather, and I think also, on some level, to my grandmother, although she probably had mixed feelings.
I don’t think Uncle Dave was particularly political, although he voiced the parental party line. Ironically he spent many years dependent on welfare, Medicaid and disability to survive. Those circumstances soured his relationship with his parents, in spite of his voiced support for their belief system.
Mom was a rebel against the parental political mindset (and in other ways). I’m not sure when she became militantly so, but I’m believe she was strongly influenced by both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. I do recall her following the Nixon impeachment hearings with avid interest. (We had a cat named Magruder!) There was a great deal of contentiousness and she voiced some pretty nasty sentiments about my grandparents at times.
I’ve never been sure to what extent arguing about politics was a substitute for arguing about other things. The arguments themselves were mostly between my grandfather and my mother. They had very similar personalities and, looking back, I believe that they both rather enjoyed a good I’m-right-you’re-wrong shout now and again. I never have, so these run-ins were very unpleasant for me.
Politically my father was more in line with my grandparents than Mom, and I believe that the difference in political views was among the strains in their relationship that moved them toward divorce. Just one of many. On the other hand he was there for, and very supportive of Grandma in her later life and Mom wasn’t.
One thing that creates ambivalent feelings in my political views is that the more vehement “liberals” in our family were people who expected a free ride in life and the “conservatives”, while resenting every penny they paid in taxes for roads, schools and libraries, loved unconditionally and would give you the shirt off their backs.
…on the other hand
If not for the welfare programs she resented so much I have not the least idea what would have happened to grandma. There is a very good chance that she would have died two or three years earlier than she did.
Living with the hypocrisy is changing me
I have moderate political tendencies. The vehement arguments about politics from my childhood led me to the conclusion that both extremes were wrong, unwilling to listen, and very loud.
However, dealing kindly with my grandmother while simultaneously trying to get her some assistance, so that I wasn’t going to go bankrupt and wind up in the same situation she was in, changed me.
First I have bitten a hole in my tongue trying to be nice, and have taken to avoiding people who make me to need to bite it more. That seems to include most of the south and mid-west of the country, so I don’t go there any more.
Second, I’ve become more socialist in my beliefs: That seems to be what they call you now-a-days, if you think that the status quo for Social Security, Medicaid and Medi-care is necessary, and that increasing health coverage, to the extent we can afford to, is a good idea.
My grandmother worked until she was 85 years old. Her last job was at a family owned company, and she was the office manager and bookkeeper. She helped to build that business. She worked there for almost 30 years. She deliberately didn’t get paid as much as she could have, and should have, because of some misguided idea that she didn’t want to pay income taxes. This meant that she wound up with the absolute minimum amount of social security income she could have (about $1000 a month). The “loving, Christian” employers were, in her words “more conservative than I am”.
When she retired after 30 years of taking less money than she should have and helping to build up their business, they “gifted” her with a $10,000 IRA (about $333.33 per year). For perspective: if she had earned $2 more per hour, at 30 hours per week she would have earned about $3000 more per year, over 30 years that would have amounted to $90,000, even if she had paid some taxes she would have been way better off).
Given her base retirement income you can imagine how long $10,000 lasted. They did, after she moved to Seattle, send her a check each month for a while, it almost covered the dog walker we had to hire so she could have the dogs with her and I didn’t have to go over twice a day every day. These people are well off and they took advantage of an elderly, very loving woman, that they claimed to love, to make themselves more wealthy, and she was impoverished. That is “conservative” for you. They did come and visit her a couple of times, and that made her happy.
The “conservatives” in DC are just as bad, or worse. They have started to whittle away at medicaid (the program for low income people, like those employed by outfits like the one my grandmother worked for) by “relaxing” requirements on how states administer the funds, and have stated that they want to reduce medicare (for seniors) and social security. They are doing this at a time when employers are moving away from pensions…what could go wrong?
The cost of providing for my grandmother without those programs would have been greater than our regular monthly income. Impoverishing regular, caring people seems to be the goal of the “conservatives”.
My childhood conclusion still resonates with me:
The vehement arguments about politics from my childhood led me to the conclusion that both extremes were wrong, unwilling to listen, and very loud.
I decided that, now that my grandmother isn’t here any more, I can take a break from being around people whose political opinions increase my stress level. That doesn’t mean that I plan to attack people, just avoid them. (Not having a TV helps a whole lot.) My getting stressed doesn’t change anything.*
*I do think it would be super fun to simply shun all the “conservatives” and see what would happen. No fighting, just avoid them and roll one’s eyes when one can’t avoid them and they spout nonsense. I guess that’s the Seattle-ite in me. Our paper talks about the “Seattle N’ice”, as if it’s a bad thing, maybe it could answer today’s question of “how do you deal with bullies?”
Note: I started this post on Veteran’s Day, but struggled with it.
I always think about Grandma when I see veteran’s memorials…
In her later life Grandma always sold poppies, until she couldn’t drive any longer (due to the diabetic ulcers mentioned in Carpe Diem).
She was a die-hard VFW Ladies Auxiliary member. She ran her local group with an iron hand from the secretary-treasurer position that she held for probably about 20 years. I still have several photo albums and a rules book somewhere in the garage. It’s hard to know what to do with them.
Within the VFW her particular cause was disabled veterans. She put on many a spaghetti dinner to raise money to help them.
Bren at Ryan Photography has a challenge called Before and After, to take a photo she provides and post process it. Below is an intro and link to a post I did on theSquirrelChase.com where I gave it a go. Have you given it a try? It is kind of interesting to work with someone else’s photo and you don’t have a preconceived idea of what it should look like.
I am experimenting with several programs to process photos. My previous post, Photo Processing Adventures with a Heffalump, outlines using several programs with an old JPG file. This week I re-noticed a photo challenge by Ryan Photography called the Before and After Challenge, to take a given photo and edit it. I decided to have a go, using two different methods to add atmosphere.
I am a rather intense person. I like to focus in and do things from beginning to end, and I really like to have a final product. Elder care does not lead to that.
When I realized how much of my life was being there for people, I knew I needed to have something other than “fixing things” or I would either go insane, get very mean, or both. Also, it is very hard to live a depression-free life when anything you want to do is less important than a dog sniffing a light pole.
I decided that I was not going to wait for grandma to die to live my own life. I didn’t want to poison our relationship with that sense of waiting. I did a few things that I really think helped me.