Thankful in all circumstances

It’s Saturday morning of the long Thanksgiving weekend. I have a lot for which to be thankful, even if I sometimes have to stop and remind myself of that fact.

I’ve realized that it’s true what they say. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. When I look back on my life to this point, I can see that my perspective has always been one of thinking there was always more time. Mistakes could be made right in time. Relationships might be mended in the coming year. Things will be better when … I’ll be happy as soon as … We’ll do this after …

I suppose it’s a realization that comes with age, but I’m quickly learning that now is the only time we have. If I want to be happy, content and at peace, now is the time. I can’t wait for a point when I might have more money. None of it depends on whether I have the right car, or the perfect house. It can’t hinge on everyone being everything I expect them to be to me. This world is messy. We have to figure out how to be happy in spite of it.

Life took a turn over the past few months. It began when my dad broke his hip in early September. Since then, there’s been a growing realization that my parents’ time here with us grows more limited by the day. For the past few years, there’s been a gradual role reversal during which my siblings and I have begun to take care of our parents’ needs more than they take care of ours. In the time since my dad’s fall, I’ve worried and cried more than any other time in my life. Our family has struggled more than ever before.  Some relationships have pulled closer together. Some have broken apart irreparably. Every day I wonder how many, or how few, more days either of my parents will stay with us.

This Thanksgiving, I reminded myself to be grateful even for those things that didn’t quite meet my expectations. Jaeger came home from Fargo, and Chesney came home from school in Mankato to join the rest of us at home. I had all three of my kids with me at one time, if only for a little while. Chesney arrived home Wednesday afternoon, but had to go back right away on Thursday night. Her job in retail required her to work on Black Friday. I really wished she could stay home for the long weekend. She makes me laugh and lightens the mood no matter what’s going on. But having her for an overnight was better than not having her home at all. It was wonderful to feel the sunshine of her presence in the household, even if it was just for a short time. I’m just happy she goes to school within reasonable driving distance.

Jack had to work on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t even count the number of holidays his job has kept him away from the kids and me and the rest of the family on special days. I used to feel a lot of bitterness about it. It was a lot of years before I thought to be grateful that he was willing to make that sacrifice for us, because it meant he was taking care of his family. How much would we have gone without if it weren’t for all of the years he dedicated himself to a job that kept us fed and clothed? I was grateful that he could join us a little late, and get himself a plate of food while it was still relatively fresh and hot.

The kids and I picked up my parents and brought them with us to my sister’s home on Thanksgiving day. It had been snowing all morning, and there was a small accumulation of snow and ice outside. Jaeger and Ryker walked beside my dad as he went to my car, each holding him by an arm, ready to catch him should he slip and begin to fall. They then did the same for my mom. Dad’s walker was tossed in the back of Jaeger’s truck so Dad would have it  at my sister’s if he needed it.

Thanksgiving was different than in years past. One brother and his family were noticeably absent. And Mom and Dad appeared worn out before we’d even left their house. As we all gathered at my sister’s home, we did our best to keep the mood celebratory. But the awareness that Mom and Dad are gradually slipping away from us was never far from my thoughts. I kept an eye on them throughout the day and they seemed tired, sad … We’re moving them out of their town house into an assisted living apartment in the next two weeks, and they’ve reluctantly accepted those circumstances. But they are saddened at the loss of their independence. Every day is a trial for them, a struggle to just get through simple routines like dressing and eating. My dad fights the reality of his circumstances until his body proves to him once again that he can’t win.

Not long after dinner and dessert were over, I asked Mom how they were feeling and she said they were ready to go home as soon as I was willing to take them. Dad was sound asleep in another chair, oblivious to the chaos of holiday laughter and conversation. It used to be that he’d spend holidays wrapped up in conversations with his sons about fishing, vacations, or the best tasting beers. Or he’d sit and lovingly tease his grandkids. Now the grandkids have grown too big for that kind of teasing, and he’s too tired to play along.

There’s a bible verse I stumbled upon a while ago that I think about often.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances …

It seemed like good advice before such serious issues began to permeate our lives. But I’m trying to remember this verse, every day. It’s not easy. Still, I’m striving to find joy in all that I can. If I don’t, I think sometimes I might just lay down and cry.

So this weekend, I’m grateful … that my parents are surviving another day, that I had some time with all of my kids. Jaeger is here through Sunday with his dog, Dacotah. And Ryker has even stayed home more than he usually does. The Christmas tree is lit and decorated, and the sun is shining today. Also? The dogs didn’t burn down the house while we were gone on Thanksgiving Day, despite their best efforts. But that’s a story for another time.

Thanksgiving 2015

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9 thoughts on “Thankful in all circumstances

  1. Hello, I seem to have… uhm…. stumbled upon this new blog and thought I’d say hi. Your family members already seem so familiar to me 😉 Nice place you have here!

    I was recently in a discussion where we were talking about the different seasons of our lives. The point where we go from being cared for by our parents to becoming their caregivers is a major shift that most of us must go through eventually. It’s not a happy milestone, but you’ve been handling it wonderfully. I was talking to my dad on the phone, and in the back of my mind I had these scenarios: what if he has a stroke and can’t talk anymore? (happened to my mom). Then I won’t be able talk with him on the phone, but he doesn’t want to move from where he is, and he’s in good hands. Would my brothers and I just “make” him move? Ugh, thanks for the bible verse. That’s a good one to start each day.

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    • Hi Abby! So glad you found me here!

      I know you’ve been traveling a similar road in worrying and taking care of your parents. I keep reminding myself that it’s such a common thing and so many of us have to go through it, but it’s easy to feel scared and alone. Thanks for the reminder that I’m far from alone in this journey.

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  2. Good to see you back on the new blog, Tee. I have never been so grateful as on Thanksgiving as I am this year since I’m HOME! I finally decided that my brother is right, we don’t get along and we should only talk for brief moments. He promised me he has no intention of changing his (combative) attitude, so I am accepting things for what they are. My husband and I went to his house for Thanksgiving. I had a great time, because I accepted things and didn’t try to change them. It was easy to avoid long periods with him, because he has three grade school boys to spend my time with while there (my nephews).

    I know how hard it is to see your parents so ill. We had the same struggle with my in-laws, and now my mom. It makes you long for better days. And you know what, it’s okay to take some time out to cry. It’s super hard to watch them in such a state. I sometimes even set aside time to cry. Then, I wipe my tears and move forward once again. I say give yourself a break once in a while and get out stress with some tears. It’s scientifically proven that they release chemicals from your body that need to be released. That doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful. It just means you’re releasing. You can still be grateful and enjoy the moments you have left with your parents. Hugs and God Bless.

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    • Hi Lori! Thanks for stopping by my new place!

      I’m so glad you got to spend your first big holiday at HOME after all those years away in Florida. It sounds like you made the absolute best of it. I could take a lesson from your approach and maybe one of these days soon, I’ll learn to let family conflict roll off my back more easily.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with your in-laws and mom. The one thing that makes the struggle a bit easier is hearing how others have coped.

      Hugs to you, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Again. Just so you know, I don’t let family conflict roll of my back. I get mad and express my anger (or hurt). Sometimes it sticks with me for a few days, and I acknowledge that it’s there. Eventually it fades away. I realize there will likely be more conflict. I try not to be resentful so I can move forward and deal with each incident as it comes, without dwelling on past ones. I just wanted you to know that you aren’t alone, and it’s okay that family issues get to you. We can’t pretend like emotions don’t exist. They are real, and we have to figure out healthy ways to deal with them. Blogging about it (as you do) can be helpful.

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  3. I found you! 🙂
    I love coming here. You’re such an inspiration and I always leave here feeling grateful for what I have.
    Thanksgiving is probably one of my favorite holidays. I have yet to “celebrate” with my family, however. As you know, I am the one who works the holidays in our house, so we’re celebrating tomorrow – Sunday
    I’m glad you got to spend some time with your kiddos, even if it wasn’t long enough. I take every little bit I can get these days.
    I can’t wait to hear how the dogs almost burned down your house. Although I can’t hardly believe it. They look so innocent!

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    • Hey Shadowrun! So glad you found me! And thank you for the kind words!

      I’m so glad you’ll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, even if it comes a few days later than normal. Will all the kids be home for the big day? I hope so!

      The dog story … Yikes. It’s funny, now that it didn’t turn out disastrous. But it could have been really tragic.

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  4. Nice blog, Tee!

    It’s so nice that you all got to spend Thanksgiving together, even if it was in bits and pieces. Having your mom and dad with you was truly a blessing! I hope all goes well with their move to assisted living.

    It sounds like the dogs were troublemakers while you were out celebrating Thanksgiving. There’s never a dull moment when our canine friends are around. On Thanksgiving day, our son’s dog, Bauer (a beagle mix), grabbed a piece of turkey skin from out of the kitchen garbage and gobbled it down in a second. I thought for sure he would throw up, but he has an iron stomach and didn’t have any problems digesting. Our dog, Lila, would have had serious problems if she would have eaten that. Our son and Bauer had to go back to their apartment the day after Thanksgiving, but it seemed like Bauer was sad to leave – he was cuddling a lot with me before they left. I think he likes my cooking! Or maybe he likes the easy access to the garbage!

    Best wishes to you as you create more stories on your new blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mary Ann! Thanks for stopping by my new place!

      I’m glad you got to enjoy Thanksgiving with both your human and canine family. What a stinker, that Bauer. (Lucy would do the exact same thing if given the chance!)

      I believe dogs do get sad when they have to leave the people they love. I’m sure Bauer didn’t want to go back home after time with so many people. When my oldest son is home with his dog, Lucy is as happy as can be. For the next few days after they go back home, she seems very sullen and depressed. Poor girl! She just loves everyone SO much and would love to be surrounded by all her loved ones 24/7.

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