My brother in law has MS. It is the main reason why I chose to read the book "29 Gifts." I never expected the book to touch me on such a personal level.
My brother in law is married to my husband's sister. They are both alcoholics with 2 young children. This is a really difficult topic within my husband's family. My brother in law is an extremely intelligent man. Prior to his MS getting significantly worse, he wrote computer programs for General Dynamics. One day he had "an episode" as it is referred to in our family. He went out on disability leave and met with many many doctors over several months. The final decision was that he would not be able to return to work. My sister in law, who never had to work, now became the bread winner for the family. A role that she could not handle. She began suffering from major depression, calling into work sick and staying home drinking.
This lasted throughout the summer.
The day the kids returned to school, she was informed that she had lost her job. The company discovered she had been abusing the Family Medical Leave Act. She had not been staying home caring for her sick husband, but instead was seen at a bar, drunk, at 2 in the afternoon. My husband's family has done their best to help. But every suggestion, every helpful gesture is turned away. I have grown to accept that they need to discover, on their own, the damage they are doing to themselves and their children.
My husband and I have started taking our niece and nephew for the weekends. We aren't able to do this every weekend but we do it as much as possible. Our main goal on those weekends is for the children to see that alcohol is not a normal part of a family.
My sister in law has started confiding in me. I have tried not to judge her (although that isn't always easy.) When I listen to her or hug her as she cries, I try to put myself in her position. What would I do if my entire life changed in a matter of seconds? What would I do if I had to work full time and be the person responsible for providing for my family? How would I cope with all that stress?
About a week ago my sister in law told me that she had to apply for food stamps. The money they had saved is starting to dwindle down. Their application for food stamps was turned down. My sister in law was beside herself. She began telling me that they had been borrowing from a mutual fund to make car payments. She couldn't believe that she wouldn't be eligible for food stamps. I sat with her and brainstormed ideas to make groceries more affordable. Things like going to Farmer's Markets for fruits and vegetables rather then the grocery store, making a shopping list and sticking to it. When I left her house that day she thanked me and told me how much better she felt.
2 days later she informed me they purchased a $3,000 dog. I don't think I've ever been so mad, so disappointed in someone before. I cannot imagine the discussions that led to thinking this was a smart purchase!?! They saw pictures of the puppy on the computer and fell in love with her. They decided the puppy looked like a Maddy.
My husband and I are going to start trying for baby #3 in January. We have 2 boys and would welcome a 3rd boy but we would be overjoyed with a little girl. A little girl whom we would name Madelyn. Maddy for short. My husband begged his sister to reconsider the name. He explained the situation. I fully understand that we can't make a name ours, but I was sad to hear that they would not even consider changing the name.
Maddy arrived yesterday. My boys and I went to the pet store to buy a present for her. My gift for day 2. We found a stuffed linebacker (perfect for this family since they all love football!!!!) And we bought her some Halloween dog treats. They were very grateful when we arrived with gifts for the newest member of their family. I chose not to focus my energy on how sad, furious, and dumbfounded I was toward the purchase of this dog. Instead I focused it on how happy my niece and nephew were yesterday. All the smiles and laughter that I haven't seen or heard from them in a long time. After all what would I do if my children lived day to day knowing their father was sick and there was no cure for his illness?