Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Elderly parents - impatience or loving interest?

One day as I was visiting my elderly parents, which I did each week, I noticed my impatience with them when either Maman or Papa would say something. It was usually because they seemed to me to be repeating familiar words, phrases or formulas they tended to say at such times or on such topics as the one we were talking about just at that moment. It was almost as if I could finish the sentence for them.

Perhaps I was frustrated because I somehow desired better dialogue or more interesting conversation and we seemed to be caught in a narrow little circle of familiar words. At such times I was probably rolling my eyes, but one thing is certain, I felt as though I wanted to quickly run out and away, to be far away as soon as possible; even though I had probably just arrived to visit with them. They were my parents and I loved them; so it was hurtful to feel as I did rather than feel love and show them my love.

That day, as I noticed my impatience with my elderly parents and in addition noticed how frustrated, hurt, and angry I felt with myself, there was a grace from God to wonder why it was that I felt this way with my parents when I knew full well how warm, kind, gracious, helpful, and loving I was with other people, even with strangers. Then there was an additional grace to realize that the big difference was that with others I was genuinely interested in them and was able to show them my interest, to actively take interest in them.

So why could I not do that with my own parents? Again, it was divine grace that showed me that the main obstacle was with me, because I thought I knew my parents and could know nothing more, learn nothing new from them. Of course right away I understood that this is not the truth. So why did I think that it was? Divine grace kept shining its light on the matter and I saw that it was because after so many years I had become too familiar with my parents; so familiar in fact that I had drawn the hasty conclusion that there was nothing left to know.

Knowledge is the key to understanding and discernment; so it didn't take long for me to take the next step and see that I was quite free to decide to take interest, a new or renewed interest, in my parents, in Maman and Papa, from that point on. It was a source of great joy for me, instead of rolling my eyes, to respond to them with something like this: "Oh, really? Would you please tell me more about that?" Human creativity - such a great gift that we all have and which is amplified by love - gave me any number of variations on this theme with different ways to interacting with these elderly folks, always with a clear focus to genuinely take interest in them and to clearly show them my real interest, as an act of love.

I think they changed a little, but mostly it was I who changed, and it was all the easier for them to go along with this new approach to them, and for most of their remaining years, our visits were more interesting, more lively, within the limits of our own human limitations and the limits of health and time.

I remain grateful to this day - now that Maman and Papa are both with God - for the better times we had, thanks to the extravagantly loving and generous grace of God.