It has been one month since my father-in-law moved in with us. Biggest challenge? Cooking enough food! I’m rather expert at cooking just enough most of the time, but he has thrown a monkey wrench in my meal plans by arriving rather suddenly and eating full sized portions, so I’m still adjusting. Also, my laundry rhythm is a little chaotic. Because his bedroom is adjacent to the laundry room, I don’t start laundry till he’s awake, instead of when I’m awake, so I’m getting a much later start. And he seems to have pushed us over the edge into a third load of daily laundry, so that I’m now doing four to five loads a day instead three to four. Minor logistical issues, yes?
Other than that, the children and I are loving his company. (Davey hasn’t said one way or the other and I won’t presume to speak for him.) He goes to senior tai chi down in Hardin County and plays cards at the local senior center once or twice a week. He goes shopping for bananas and oatmeal cookies and drives himself to the doctor. He reads the paper and watches the cable tv we had installed in his room. And he takes the time to get to know his grandchildren. He watches them and talks with them and I hear pretty often, “It’s so nice to have a grandpa in the house!”
I was talking to my mother a little while before he arrived and she said she wouldn’t want to be a burden to any of her children. I had to agree, because I wouldn’t want to be a burden to mine, either. Except…
That’s all wrong.
I’m finding that he is no more of a burden than any of the children are, and they are burdens only because in loving someone else, you have to sacrifice a little bit of your own self: a little bit of your own time, of your own desires, of your own will. You sacrifice these things – willingly – for the love of the other person, and the burden is happily borne, even embraced.
And that’s all this is.
I was out shopping not long ago with one of the girls, and it was quite crowded on the streets. We got to a busy intersection, where there is a side street that can be very difficult to get out of in heavy traffic. The SUV in front of me let a car in, and I was anticipating leaving space for the other car to pull out in front of me, but when the light changed, that SUV let the other vehicle in, too, leaving no one for me!
“How rude!” I said. My companion looked at me funny, so I clarified, “He denied me the opportunity to be charitable! He let both cars in and denied everyone else behind him the opportunity to do a good deed, and that is rude!”
“Does it matter, as long as the good deed got done?” she asked.
A few days later, we were at our parish, selecting a needy child from the angel tree to buy Christmas gifts for. I had budgeted for two, but there weren’t very many angels left. I glanced around the room, gauging the number of people who might still want angels, and decided not to take a second. “Because it’s rude to deny other people the opportunity to be charitable,” I said to my girl with a wink. And she was starting to understand.
It’s the same thing with denying our children the opportunity to care for us in our old age. Oh, yes, sometimes health considerations make a nursing home the best choice, but in a lot of cases, an aging parent can be served just as well in the home, and the graces for both the parent and the family far outweigh whatever burdens there may be. When we choose not to “burden” our children, we are denying them the opportunity to love as Christ loves.
I say this with a whole month of experience under my belt, so I know what I’m talking about.
And also, there really is always room for one more. People always ask that when we’re having a new baby. “Where are you going to put everybody?”
And I just shrug and say, “There’s always room for one more!”
But babies are babies, small and adaptable, and adults come with their own tastes and hopes and ways of doing things. But we made room, in our home and in our hearts, and it’s true. There really is always room for one more.
So don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of having another child or taking in a parent. The graces and blessings far outweigh the burdens.
Have a lovely day!