June 23, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Pampering and Golden Rule go hand in hand

Not long ago, my husband and I took our two cats to the veterinarian for their yearly checkups.

I confessed to Dr. Sue that sometimes I give Ziggy, the elder cat, thick cream because he is so thin.

While examining him, she commented on how healthy he was considering his advanced age, and she said at this point we should give him anything he wants.

Recently, during a phone chat, I told our eldest daughter, Donna, that Ziggy’s days are numbered. She reminded me that all our days are numbered—and that Ziggy and the younger cat, Domino, have always been pampered.

“As they should be,” I answered. After our conversation, I thought of all the pets cared for through the years, even through illness and death. Then I remembered the years of elder caregiving, especially the times when we also pampered loved ones.

Following are two examples.

Several times, my sister and I were chastised for bringing our mother candy bars when she was an Alzheimer’s patient in a nursing home. The objection was that they ruined her appetite.

We reminded the staff that we brought her candy because she refused to eat when their meals were served and her weight was dropping radically. Candy bars were a temporary win-win solution. They did not harm her, and they brought her several moments of happiness.

When my husband’s mother was in an assisted-living facility, food was not an issue. However, we provided her with a large bulletin board with family pictures.

She eventually could no longer recognize people because of dementia, but it made us feel better with the photos displayed there. We also surrounded her with the religious icons of her Catholic faith, always keeping rosaries within her reach. Unfortunately, both icons and rosaries often had to be replaced because of theft. We hoped their presence brought her solace.

Pampering can be healthy and validating, whether for loved ones or pets. Pampering is especially life-affirming when there are so many other life restrictions. A now-deceased older friend told me many times how difficult it was for her to accept pampering from her family, but she finally acquiesced, notably when one of her daughters insisted on giving her mother pedicures. The daughter did this as lovingly as if her mother’s feet belonged to Jesus.

Believe me, after loved ones are gone, it is too late to pamper them—and regrets are extremely painful. Even if that happens, we need to remember to pamper ourselves now and then, too. Confession and forgiveness—especially forgiving ourselves—is a good start.

Most of all, remember that the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is applicable all the time.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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