I made the move to Salem, Oregon a year ago this week. I knew I needed a new place to live with my two youngest kids, and I didn't have any idea where to go so I moved back to the place where I grew up. I thought I'd be close to my parents, where a safety net might be found, where a relationship might be built between my kids and their grandparents that they had never had before, growing up so far away. But very soon after we moved in, my dads health took a turn and he had to move to an assisted care facility.
The stress and turmoil upon my own nuclear family was echoed out into my parents and I felt completely tapped out. I had nothing to give to the caregiver or to the one who needed care.
Many people near my age group are going through the exact same thing with their parents and it is stressful at best and heartbreaking at it's worst.
Today I set aside time to go visit my dad. No kids, not mom, just me and him. For several hours. I bought him his favorite fried chicken to eat while we visited. We sat in silence most of the time, but occasionally I would ask him a question. Sometimes he could answer, sometimes he couldn't.
I asked him if he felt he had been a good father. He said, I don't know, but I tried really hard. The simple honesty brought tears to my eyes. I assured him that he had been a great dad, and I was so thankful.
We talked a bit about family genealogy, about my siblings, about how he was feeling, but mostly we just shared time. We did a lot of shuffling around from one spot to another, getting fresh air, returning for coffee, more fresh air, then as we were outside, he pointed to a small fruit-like thing hanging from a shrub. He said, "eat it."
I said, "I don't think that's fruit dad." He kept saying it was, so I threw it to him. He smelled it and scratched it, and nearly tasted it. I said, "no dad!" So he threw it back to me. I smiled and scrambled to catch it. I threw it back to him. We sat across from each other in the shady breezeway of the retirement home, smiling, playing catch and just being.
I'm learning more and more, it's not about the doing nearly as much as it is about the being. Being with someone, sharing the same air, a united understanding, a smile, a laugh or a hug. It's the being with someone that is a gift.