A week ago I received a formal note from Chapter R with a gold embossed P.E.O. star centered at the top of the small page:
My dear Anne
It is a pleasure to extend to you the invitation of Chapter R State of California to become a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood.
The Sisterhood is an international organization devoted to charitable projects and to the support and promotion of educational opportunities for women. Close association of members leads to warm and lasting friendships. A member of Chapter R will be in touch with you soon to give you an opportunity to ask questions you may have.
In your written acceptance of this invitation, you are required to affirm your belief in God and to state that you come voluntarily, with a desire to be of service to the Sisterhood.
We look forward to welcoming you to our chapter.
I debated the pros and cons.
If I joined, I could sit with Mom during the hour or longer business meeting and prevent her from speaking out of turn or otherwise disrupting the meeting.
I know that it used to be a hugely prestigious thing to be invited to join P.E.O. It meant you had made it to the top social group in your community.
But the last thing I need is another organization requiring volunteer work. I am trying to write a book... This would be another distraction from that task.
My lifelong commitments are to Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus, to NOW, to WomenChurch and the Women's Ordination Conference, to the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, the Modern Language Association, the Conference on Christianity & Literature, and other groups.
I am, however, committed to taking Mom to P.E.O. meetings on two mornings per month. Perhaps it would be rude to continue to use this group for Mom's entertainment while sitting outside during the business portion of the meeting and refusing to join.
These women are so kind to admit Mom to their chapter when she is in an advanced stage of dementia. She can't carry on a conversation appropriately or really get to know them in the way she would have ten years ago.
They are all in their mid 70s to 80s... there are no members my age. If I make a commitment to them, I'll have twenty more mothers to take care of--but I would want to stop attending when Mom dies.
A thought crossed my mind: Grandma would want me to join. I banished the thought. There's no point in making a commitment like that for someone who is deceased.
From day to day I decided not to join, then reconsidered it.
What harm could it do?
Answer: it would put your name on a lot more mailing lists and further increase your inability to keep up with your real mail, not to mention your email.
Today I drove Mom to the meeting determined not to join.
But Ellie was so kind to Mom, sitting by her and helping her with the refreshments. Alva Mae was so friendly. Dorothy B. is such a generous, loving, and courageous person, dealing with her husband's LBD and inviting us to attend this chapter of P.E.O.
When the president, Louise Taylor, asked me if I would be joining, I explained "I would not want to join and then just leave when my mother is no longer able to attend."
"Oh, that's no problem," she said. "You could just become inactive--take a leave of absence."
"Oh!" I said. "Well, then--I guess I should join for now."
"Oh yes, you should join," she said.
And that was that. I will send a written acceptance of the invitation, affirming my belief in God and my desire to be of service to the Sisterhood.
You know, a sisterhood founded in 1869 predates modern use of the word sisterhood by a hundred years.
That's kind of cool--like becoming friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
I'm a sucker for sisterhood of any kind.