A recent daily prompt asked that if I were to nominate a person of the year, who would it be?
I would have to amend the title and call it “Couple of the Year”- my sister and her husband, Mary Lou and John Hall. Mary Lou began a new job in a nearby county at the beginning of this year, as my mother seemed in general good health at the time. As Mary Lou lives in the same town as our mother, the bulk of Mom’s care falls to her. Prior to taking the new job, she had worked in town, and it was not as difficult for her to take mom to doctor visits or handle unexpected problems.
Barely into the new year, a routine chest x-ray revealed that mom had an enlarged lymph node in the breast area. She had weathered through 2 earlier bouts with breast cancer. Further tests revealed cancer in the breast, but it was a metastatic form of cancer, different from the earlier ones. She had surgery to remove her remaining breast and all the lymph nodes. However, more tests revealed the cancer had already spread to her lung, so we entered into the nightmare world of chemotherapy.
While all of this was going on, Mary Lou and John were preparing for their daughter, Jeanette’s, wedding on June 22. With Jeanette living in Virginia, which is where the wedding will take place, Mary Lou and John had to make several trips there to help with the planning of the wedding. On those weekends, mom came up to stay with me.
There were days, however, when Mary Lou had barely arrived at work, only to get a phone call and have to arrange time away from the office to handle a situation at home. On her way home from work she would stop to pick up prescriptions or groceries for mom. She partitions all mom’s drugs into an organizer for her, and pays her bills, reconciles her checkbook and manages her money transfers. There has been many a week through this experience that finds Mary Lou arriving home after 8 or 9 PM, too tired to even eat dinner. Fortunately, she has some back-up from mom’s friend, Betty Barnes, who stays with mom on weekdays. She has been so helpful, a good and loyal friend.. And I’ve I packed my suitcase and visited with mom to give Betty a break once in a while. My problem is that due to Parkinson’s disease I am unable to drive and need rides to and from mom’s, a chore Mary Lou and my husband, Bill, share.
Mary Lou’s husband, John, singlehandedly, holds things together at mom’s house. Without him, mom would never be able to stay in her home, which is very important to her. During this medical crises, John, a jack-of-all-trades, has had to run over and fix a backed-up toilet, install a new water heater to replace the one that was spraying Niagara Falls over the dining room, install a new air conditioner in mom’s bedroom, as well as a TV so she can watch it from bed. A storm felled a neighbor’s tree, which tore off mom’s electrical wiring, and John had to chop the tree up before the electrical company would come in and fix the wiring. This, the day after he had dental surgery! John also maintains the yard with Mary Lou’s help, and she plants flowers every spring in the flowerbeds.
The chemotherapy almost weakened mom beyond recovery. She tried a pill form and then IV, but she was severely ill and hardly able to get out of bed. She has suspended treatment now and is working on building up her strength.
But the challenges for Mary Lou continue, as John was recently diagnosed with Miniere’s disease, an inner ear/balance disorder that made him dizzy, unable to drive and off-balance, so much so that he required a cane to walk. The day of Jeanette’s bridal shower arrived and Mary Lou decorated the house and presented a lovely table of food for her guests. The next day, John, still a bit unsteady from the Mineiers , cooked up a Mother’s Day brunch which rivaled anything at I-Hop. The following week, mom turned ninety and together Mary Lou and I planned a surprise party for her, which she loved. My brother’s family drove up from eastern NC and she had her whole family and many friends to celebrate with her. Once again that intrepid chef, John, cooked hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken, while his partner made the salads and sides, and I brought the birthday cake.
That is what is so special about Mary Lou and John – they are true partners, a team of two that can take on any task, take anything that comes their way, and do it with a smile ! For outstanding dedication to family, my nominees for couple of the year: Mary Lou and John Hall!
Footnote: Our mother is doing better and plans to attend her granddaughter’s wedding on Saturday. John, too, is recovering from his symptoms and is back to driving and working again. A fe w weekends back, Mary Lou and I went shopping together to look for her mother of the bride dress. We had a nice, quiet lunch together, found a beautiful dress, and we hope this marks the beginning of better days ahead. One thing I know for sure, no matter what the future holds for me, I have a sister (and a brother-in-law) I can rely on.