Switching Roles

The day my Dad asked for dating advice was a day I won’t forget.  Two years ago, when my father was 86-years-old, he called me one day wanting my opinion about a lady friend of his who wanted to end their relationship.  I didn’t know what to say to him so I do what I always do when I don’t know what to say; I asked him what he thought. I listened to him and eventually suggested a couple of ideas.  I stressed to him, “Dad, make sure she always treats you well.  If she isn’t kind to you, you don’t need to be around her.”  After we hung up our phones, I breathed a prayer of relief:  Thank God he didn’t want to talk about sex!
            The roles are switching with my Dad.  Ten years ago when my mother died, I had the blessing of being with her and my father in the final weeks of her life.  My two older brothers live in New England, so that leaves me to take care of the immediate and most pressing needs of now my Dad and then my Mom.
            I’ve been talking to a lot of people here at our church who have switched roles with their parents and there’s a lot of hair-pulling and car screaming happening around Bucks County these days.  It’s not easy spending half the day in the ER.  It’s not easy trying to get your Mom or Dad adjusted in an assisted living facility when they don’t want to be there in the first place.  It’s not easy standing at their bedside when death comes.
            I believe in a God who reliably delivers unanticipated moments of grace in even the worst situations we face.  Here are a few blessings that can come when roles are switched:
1.       I get to play it backwards:  My parents in their love for me and my brothers made more sacrifices than I know.  Now, I may be asked to make some small sacrifices, or large ones; and it feels to me that I’m thanking my Dad by doing what I can.
2.      I get to make amends:  I nearly drove my parents to drink as a teenager.  I had some wild periods in my life.  In fairness, there were things that my parents did that I wish didn’t happen.  Before my Mom died, I told her that I loved her.  The last words she said to me were, “I love you.”  God provided me with a lot of chances to be with her, care for her, and speak with her.  I have no regrets when I think of my Mom.  I miss her; and I look forward to the day when I will see her again.  I made the amends that I needed to make and I thankful that I had the opportunity.  Not everyone does.  
3.      I get to show my boys what to do: It won’t be very long until Sam and Miles will need to switch roles with me.  One forgotten aspect of parenting is that parents are always teaching their children the way it  should be—for the worse or for the better—in marriage, in raising children, in participation in church, and in caring for parents.  I will try, though, to not ask either of my sons for dating advice!

One last word:  I am a fan of the NPR program called On Being with Krista Tippet. This past Sunday, she did a whole program on this issue with a writer from The New York Times. Here’s a link to the program: http://www.onbeing.org/program/far-shore-aging/255