39: Mi Casa Es Su Casa

39: Mi Casa Es Su Casa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

God, with his mercy, gave us this work to do, so we won’t give up.

~2 Corinthians 4:1

Wisdom comes from unexpected places. My housekeeper held me by the elbow and said, “You are a lucky woman, señora. You know this?” I nodded in agreement.

She continued, “I see my father rarely. Each time I see him, I memorize his face; I think it is the last time. You have your father living with you. You get to see him every day!”

I looked her in the eye. “You are right, Angeles; I am lucky.”

As the vacuum whirred in the next room, I thought how different her reaction to eldercare is from those of my friends who live in comfortable homes like mine. Just the night before at exercise class, one fit friend in her fifties commented, “How do you do it? It must be so confining! I know I’m not cut out for it.”

Another joined in. “It would never work for me and my parents. We’d kill each other.”

Tolstoy said that all happy families are alike, but all unhappy families are different. In some ways, the situations with elderly parents are different, but in some ways the situation between seniors and their adult children is alike for everyone. The bond between my friends and their folks may have been weaker than mine, or their folks may be needier than Dad. Yet, we all have the same obligation: Do we take care of those who took care of us?

I believe in living in the present. My sister likes to project into the future and ask: “What if this happens or that?”

My brother queries, “Wouldn’t Dad prefer a retirement home with people his own age rather than live with you?”

Invariably, I answer, “I take one day at time, and the choice of living arrangements is always Dad’s.”

I sleep soundly at night. Do I trek out shoe shopping with gal pals often? Can my husband and I run off on a spree to the Caribbean or even to the Carolina shore? Is my lifestyle more cramped than before I launched into eldercare?

To these concerns, I answer myself: Didn’t raising me hamper my parents’ good times? Didn’t they put their kids’ needs before their own? Don’t I want to treat Dad the way I want to be treated under the same circumstances?

Everything is finite. I won’t be someone’s child forever. For now, I seize the moment to still be a daughter. I live each day knowing I am appreciated and a contributing member of humanity. I am blessed in that I am able to stay home to care for my father, and that I have the room in my house to do so. And, even more essential, I have a supportive spouse!

Taking care of an aged parent has some of the same deep joys as nurturing an infant. Just as a new mom gets to experience the world with fresh eyes, now a different world reveals itself through the blurred eyes of an older parent—and what you witness amazes you. You see the kindness of strangers, the goodness of warmhearted folks, and the total altruism of people who hold doors, jawbone a minute, listen to an old story, share a smile, and act gracefully toward those impaired by age.

To be a caregiver with no financial reward is an invaluable service. To feel the peace, contentment, and righteousness of giving one’s time and energy to the one who nurtured you is a priceless joy. Do I envy my siblings who are not responsible for the daily care of Dad and are free to follow their pursuit of happiness? No. I am the lucky one, as Angeles, with the wise heart, pointed out.

Mi casa es su casa. Perhaps the expression was first formed when an adult daughter said to her parent, “Come live with me!”

~Erika Hoffman

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