Monday, August 23, 2010
Recently, I was called upon to parent my parent. This came during a recent trip to help my mother get out of rehabilitation and back into her long-time home. Since I have not reared children, this was a radically new experience. This is not the teacher-student relationship. That I understand (to some degree). This is not the preacher-congregation relationship. That I understand (to some degree). Rather, it is an adult child having to coach, coax, and prod an ailing and out-of-sorts (but brave and tough) elderly parent. As the younger mortal, I have abilities--mental and physical--that are waning for my dear mother; thus, I am the one to do the research, make some tough decisions, and insist on some things she would rather not do--along with her loving husband of eighteen years.
One feels inadequate, stretched, and--at times--desperate. Yet I found that God encouraged me through some passages in Psalm 25 ("in you I put my hope all day long") and in the general sense that God was present and working through it all. Things have declined further since I left after my not quite one-week trip there. The progress she made has been lost and she is back in the hospital. And I am a thousand miles away, beginning a more than a full-time teaching load.
Most adult children will weather this kind of lamentable endeavor as they and their parents age. While some are derelict in their duties, it is a divinely-appointed time to reflect on one's own mortality and morbidity (see Ecclesiastes 12), and to depend on the strength and wisdom from above to navigate some unfamiliar and unpleasant circumstances (James 1). Yet all should be done within the imperative to "honor your mother and father" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." But this must not be in our own strength, but rather "yet not I, but Christ who lives within me."
The grasshopper, once so young and spry and sassy, now drags herself along--or has to be lifted and dragged by others (Ecclesiastes 12). We watch and lament, seeing in this elderly mortal an image of our own decay and degradation (should we make it that far). Prayers seem to bounce off heaven and ricochet back on our heads.