I once had a friend who had become a widow at an early age. She had four small children and was unsure of how she was going to provide a stable life for them. Her parents had a big house with many empty rooms, so they suggested that my friend bring her brood there, at least until she would be able to map out a plan for the rest of her life. As time went by, it was apparent that the situation was more than satisfactory for everyone, and so my friend stayed put in her parents home.
Eventually my friend was working and contributing greatly to the expenses of the big extended family. Her children grew and left the nest one by one. Her parents became old and less able to care for themselves and my friend kept them safe and comfortable. It was a wonderful arrangement filled with much love. My friend’s tradition from recipient of her parents support to main caretaker for her parents was smooth and mutually beneficial to everyone.
I’ve witnessed a number of situations in which people that I know have cared diligently and lovingly for their aging or ill parents. It has been an inspiring thing to watch them devoting so much of their time to their mothers or fathers in a kind of reciprocity of love. In a time when so many elderly are left to their own resources, it is uplifting to see how much goodness is happening all around us.
My friend Linda made the art of caring for her mother into a masterpiece. For many years her routine was defined by daily visits to her mother’s nursing home every single morning, lunchtime and evening. She made certain that every aspect of her mother’s care was in order from dawn until her mom went to sleep at night. She literally became friends with the people who worked to make her mother safe and secure, often bringing them generous tokens of her appreciation. I marveled at Linda’s steadfast goodness, but it did not surprise me because she has always been the quintessential essence of thoughtfulness.
More recently I have watched Cristel, the daughter of one of my dear friends, making daily visits to her mother who suffered from a stroke just before the Covid pandemic began. While the rest of us were worrying about the virus, Cristel was teaching school each day and then donning robes, masks, face shields and gloves in the evening to spend time with her mom. While she sometimes mentions how tired she is, she never suggests that taking care of her mother is making her weary. I am continually impressed with her faithful routine of making her mother happy with gifts of milkshakes and stuffed animals and humor.
A high school friend had an horrific accident this year that resulted in damage to his brain. His whole world was turned upside down and his daughter, Rachel. immediately came to his rescue. She became his voice with doctors and therapists. She found her father and his wife a place to stay where they would be assisted with their transition necessitated by their medical emergencies. She helped to sell her father’s home and set up a special Facebook page to keep all of her father’s friends informed of his progress and setbacks on his road to recovery. Somehow she did all of this while being a new mom. Her energy and enthusiasm for her task has literally taken my breath away. I admire her so greatly because most people as young as she is do not have to take on such tremendous responsibilities.
I have another friend, Paula, who delights in watching over her mother. She joyfully posts photos of her frequent visits to the care facility where her mom resides. Like the others, Paula devotes much of her time to maintaining a loving and healthy environment for her mother. All the while she does it with a smile and a sense of appreciation rather than duty.
My daughter’s mother-in-law lost her husband a while back. She has been adjusting well since his death, but recently her daughter, Terri, who used to live nearby moved about an hour or so away from her. Terri, has a great deal of land on her new property and so she has been trying to convince her mom to build a little casita there so that as her mom ages she will be close enough that Terri will be able to care for her. During the Thanksgiving holidays Terri and her mother met with an architect and chose a design for the little house that will soon be a new home in a delightful plan for the future.
As someone who spent forty years caring for my own mother, I know how all consuming such responsibility can be. It is often a frustrating experience as well, but in the end there is so much peace of mind in knowing that the person you so love is getting the care the he or she deserves. I was not quite as saintly and positive as the friends that I have written about. There were times when I wanted to run away from it all. My admiration for the wonderful women that I have noted in this blog is boundless. It makes me happy to see their magnanimous spirits in a world that sometimes seems not to care. To me they are a gift to all of us with their example of how things should be done. I celebrate their goodness each time I see yet another reminder of their love.