Sunny Side of The Stream: What My Parents Teach Me as They Care for My Grandma
As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been amazed at the example of my parents in caring for my granny as she lives with severe dementia. It’s a gift to me to be able to admire their devotion to my grandma, my father’s mom. I’ve seen how my parents love her and suffer alongside her as they brought her to their home. Sometimes she’s been very difficult to manage, especially before my parents learned how to treat her anxiety. They could have chosen an easier route. But they’ve persisted.
What motivates them? I know it’s love. Wanting to treat her as they want to be treated, my mom said. Caring for aging parents is a part of life, so God must want us to do it, my dad said. God gives them the grace to do it, they both expressed. I asked if they enjoy it at all. My mom said there’s a sense of satisfaction in caring for someone, as caring for the needs of others is what we were made for. My father thinks back on all his memories with his mother — memories she no longer has. She knows that he’s someone she loves, but at any given moment she could think he’s her husband or her brother rather than her son. But he remembers.
These are the Hands
My father said he was holding his mom’s hand recently and suddenly “a spirit of poetry” came over him. His words were to this effect:
These are the hands that changed my diapers.
These are the hands that spanked my butt.
These are the hands that comforted me- [He was overcome with emotion at this point as he spoke to me on the phone.] […]
These are the hands that ran fingers through my hair when I was a little boy.
How Will We be Changed From This Time With Her?
My dad has said this time is very important for us, the caregivers. “We think we’re doing it for them, but somehow […] it’s more valuable for us than it is for them.” We’re going to be here for longer, he said, and maybe our experience of giving care will change our perspective, our ministry, our love or our behavior as we live out the rest of our lives. Maybe this season will have an enduring effect on our lives, he suggested.
He’s told me before that the partnership with my mom in caring for his mom has blessed their marriage. It’s amazing that something that seems so burdensome from the outside, when done from a place of love, has been transformative for their hearts.
I’ve felt some of that transformation as I sat with my grandma recently to offer my parents some relief. I sang songs to her and read to her, held her hand and spoke with her. We had a good time. All I have to show for the time is the joy of a simple, loving human connection. Something about that connection was real and grounding. Afterwards, the busyness of my typical days felt less real, less important. That time was holy. As my mom said, caring for others is what we were made for.
I’m proud of my parents. I admire them. I hope that as they get older, I’ll always choose to honor them, remember their love poured out for me and for my granny, enjoy who they are and savor moments with them. That will help me to serve devotedly out of love, as they’re doing now.