Friday, June 7, 2013
Now, however, we find ourselves caring for Nancy's elderly parents - one of whom has Alzheimer's and the other of whom has a regular Chinese menu of medical conditions, headed up by kidney and heart disease - who are starting to require at least as much care and attention as our daughters once did. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say Nancy's sister Donna has borne the primary brunt of parental-care duty. Donna has been spending more time with them in Macon than at home and has been an absolute insert metaphor for unwavering strength here. Secondary brunt has been borne by Nancy, who is in Macon even as I write this. My duty is really shockingly light: staying home and holding down the fort, offering sympathy, and writing this blog.)
This, I suppose, is just the nature of time: a movement from being cared for by your parents, to caring for yourself, to caring for children, to caring for your parents, and finally - if you live so long - to being cared for by your children in turn. Of course, caring for children is a much nicer job than caring for parents because with children, you can hope things will get just a teensy bit easier day by day. Today she may learn to feed herself, tomorrow she'll buckle her own car seat, the next day she'll program your Smartphone for you, and so forth. With the elderly, the job will only get harder and more painful until it goes away altogether. Children, you usher into the world. Parents, you usher out.
So what are we to make of this? Well, I don't know. The one constant I see in the cycle is that someone is always caring for someone else. Your turn to be cared for comes at the beginning and end, and Between, you'll be expected to care for others. I now recall that when Nancy and I were dating, her parents were already contending with the welfare of their parents. This phase of my in-laws' lives lasted until my daughter Catherine was in middle school.
It always struck me as facile, the kind of feel-good philosophy that says if you go around putting positive energy into the universe, you'll get positive energy back. I mean, that's all well and good to say, but I see a lot of people whom the shit-storm of life hits a lot harder than they deserve. How much negative energy did the workers of the Tazreen fashion factory put into the universe to deserve dying in that terrible fire, what had Amanda Berry done to deserve being captive to a lunatic for a decade?
But maybe, in the general course of things, there's truth to this - the karma doctrine - after all. Put all the love you can into the world during your time in Between, give your children love and give them a good example by your compassion for your parents. You will leave the region of Between soon enough, and your children will have to care for you.
I see the tenderness, the time and self-sacrifice Donna and Nancy freely offer their parents. I see that Donna and Nancy were loved very much as children.