(This is my first Perfect Moment Monday post, and it may be somewhat lengthier than the norm, but the background is necessary to understand the moment, so please bear with me.)
In order for you to understand my perfect moment, I will need to give you a little bit of background first. My older sister has b.ipolar disorder and, like so many with this disease, has struggled with managing her illness for years. Every few months it seemed she would have a “major episode” and her life would fall apart (she’d lose her job, have money problems, have other relationship problems, sometimes have problems with the law, etc.) and then slowly she’d put her life back together. Everything would depend on if she would be taking her medication or not. I don’t reallly want to give a primer on b.ipolar here, but you get the idea. (This is the reason that my parents went to court to get custody of my now-eleven year old niece when she was three.) Up until now, my sister, whom I’ll call Daisy, had not held down a job for more than a year at a time. She could hold it together for a few months, but then her body’s chemistry would work against her and she would end up going off the deep end, so to speak.
Since having her second child, my only nephew, things definitely seem to have turned a different direction. She has kept the same job for longer than she has ever kept any job, and they see her as indispensable there. She and my nephew’s dad got married and have worked really hard against some pretty tough circumstances in these couple of years since my nephew’s birth. She has had neither a manic nor a depressive episode during that time (enough to effect her functioning or relationships). She has started going to the doctor when she starts exhibiting symptoms or needs her medication adjusted and has even started referring in conversation to her illness.
I believe that the key to many of these changes is her husband, whom I’ll call Billy. Billy is definitely a little rough around the edges, but he has shown my sister unconditional love, has told her that she’s beautiful when she thinks she’s hideous, and has reassured her that he will not leave her if she winds up in the hospital again for her mental illness. At the same time, he has gone to the doctor with her and has let her know when it’s time to go again. And he works so, so hard. He cleans their house, and he will do any job that he can find and he has a reputation as a good worker.
Lest you think they live in some kind of fairy tale paradise–Daisy and Billy can argue like cats and dogs. They will probably always struggle with money. Billy has a criminal record that has kept him from getting really good jobs for the 25 years since the action it took to get the record (in my mind he’s quite affectionately the “ex-con brother-in-law” 🙂 ). Billy has a 19-year-old son with myriad problems who will probably always be somewhat dependent on him. Billy’s family (siblings, etc.), who live in the area are the bane of my sister’s existence.
And yet, this is the best I’ve seen her since…since ever.
On to the perfect moment.
My perfect moment came during a family get-together over the weekend. I ended up by the grill with Billy and everyone else was off doing other things. Billy and I somehow got on the topic of his record, my sister’s illness, the whole shebang (I’m not sure how we got into such heavy stuff over hamburgers and hot dogs). At one point Billy said, “When I met Daisy, I fell in love with her and she changed my life. She totally turned my life around and I’m nothing like I was before. And I tell her, when you don’t take your medicine, your not very nice. And that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you, but you’re not much fun to be around. So you have to take your medicine. So this is our deal. If I have to work as a janitor, you have to take your medicine.”
And there you have it. I never thought that anyone would say that they fell in love with my sister and that she changed their life (at least not for the better). But here is this man, this good, hard-working man, and he loves her, and he’s changed HER life, and now I’m thinking a lot about hope. When you’ve been through infertility, you know a lot about the cruelty of hope, and you learn really quickly to quell hopeful thoughts. Well, I learned that lesson long before, with my sister. I had learned early on to stop hoping that her life would ever get any better for any significant period of time. But if she’s got this person in her life who is willing to say this, who says, “If I have to work as a janitor, you have to take your medicine,” and stands by her, and does it, well, maybe I can let hope back in the door again.
Aw, who am I fooling? I already have.