(This chapter was to be posted on December 10 but I neglected to click the “publish” button! Hopefully, better late than never.)
When one counts one’s blessings, should the recounting of one’s afflictions come before or after? Or at all? I am certainly greatly blessed in having moved from my solitude to my parents’ home. Living the legacy of faithful family. Serving and contributing and giving care. Cooking and shopping and driving and repairing and cleaning up. The gratitude and love and support of one’s devoted parents. Reading dozens of books during my commute. But the coin’s obverse also reveals itself, sometimes painfully. My state-mandated divorce class emphasized how harmful is a parent’s geographic distance from a child. I have paid a price by living an hour away from my teenage daughter. We used to share an evening a week, and some weekends, cooking, baking, listening to music, playing games, sitting in the hot tub, doing crafts, conversing, dreaming. Now I am lucky to take her to lunch twice a month. She is 16. She just earned her driver license. She takes voice lessons and sings at church and in an audition choir. She feels so far away. In a similar vein, pursuing a romantic relationship has proven impractical what with the worries and fatigues of caregiving and homemaking. Though I have dated, the added stress of relationship building (and, more to the point, relationship failure) has heaped new heaviness to my burdens. My sisters tell me they love me and pray for me, that God is with me, but caution me to be aware of my limits and my needs, and to express them, so I can enjoy health and happiness, too. That is good counsel. One date said to me, There are lots of ways of caring for your parents without living with them. That seemed to cheapen the revelation that brought me here. That felt like questioning my intentions and deliberations and decisions. That belied and belittled the magnitude of my mission and the refining value of my consecration. Moving here was the right thing to do—even a providential revelational opportunity—but did come at a personal cost. Was that cost worth paying? My daughter Laura encouraged me to wrap myself in Psalm 23 as I experience this caregiving phase of life: The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. There is no turning back. I am here to stay, come what may.
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I think the date was trying to help in her own way. When I cared for Dad, I maybe was away from home 6 hrs. a wk. I did it for me in the sense that I had to live with myself if I didn’t. I have to live with myself that I did too, it’s so easy to regret having moments of frustration toward someone that is like an angel to me. The messes, that he was lonely & bored because his mind would now allow him to enjoy reading, television, or a hobby took its toll on me. I could not sit with him all the time. I was nearly always sad, but mostly for him (I think). We had many good moments. I have to focus on that. My truest of all reasons: I did it for Dad. It was the least I could do for the most unselfish, loving man I will ever know. I saw my mom suffer & die (I got there after) in a nursing home. Although it was becoming nearly physically impossible to lift Dad, dress him, etc. due to his back, I was determined. I would have done it until it broke me mentally and physically. I think he knew this & wasn’t going to stay until that happened (if it would have). You absolutely are doing the right thing if it helps loving people AND feels right in your heart. So many people would not swallow their pride & help their parents to great lengths if they were in a position to do so (some would but can’t). 2 wonderful parents are a blessing. I am glad you have them & they you. I admire the way you express the experiences and also inject the comedic statements or thoughts.
Also, I hope Amy & Sunshine are well.
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Thanks very much, Dawn Renee. Yes, the date meant well. I knew I would have to write about my experience to make it through my experience. You describe very well the many complicated considerations involved. I’m happy to hear what a wonderful man your father was. What a blessing you could bless him in his final days and months. I appreciate that you understand, accept, and respect my experience. We’ll keep plugging along!