My formerly feisty, stubborn, and determined mother turned 90 during Labor Day weekend of 2018. The weekend was also the 10th anniversary of when we realized Mom was having memory problems. When she decided to move in with my brother and his family. When I took over her finances. When my sister from out of town began monthly treks to visit her. The weekend was also the 10th anniversary of when we learned caregiving is hard work.
The 10 years between 2008 and 2018 were not kind to Mom. Her world began shrinking. Her keen intelligence slowly failed. She moved into a memory care unit in 2015. She no longer cares about her appearance. She's demanding and increasingly snippy and grumpy with the staff and with her 3 children. She pouts if she doesn't win every game of cards. She whines. A lot. Caregiving is hard and getting harder.
Even so, my brother and I schedule visits so she has company most week days. We bring her to our homes for meals on alternate weekends. My brother takes her to church most Sundays. I spend several hours a month dealing with her finances. My sister makes monthly visits, does Mom's clothes shopping, and organized her 90th birthday party.
We do the hard bits of caregiving, not because Mom is sweet and inspiring and appreciative. She is none of those things. We do these things because she raised us. She cared for our father for decades after he became ill. She went to work and stood between us and poverty. She is part of our relational DNA. She is our mother. She is ours.
Caregiving is hard, whether the caregivers are parents of children with special needs and disabilities, adults caring for aging parents, or friends who have no relatives to look after them. We do the hard work because God calls us to stand between the vulnerable people we love and the aloneness of belonging to no one. We do it because our loved ones belong to us in the same way we belong to the One who saved us and made us His own.
We do it because we are His and He is ours and because His banner over all of us is love.
Song of Solomon 2: 4, 16
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. She is working with Dr. Gary Chapman on a book about using the five love languages in special needs families. It will be released in August of 2019.