One Christmas, my daughter-in-law gave Gene and me our own pens. Before we could ask why, she grinned and said, “I’m tired of hearing “MINE!” from you. We laughed because we knew just what this sibling among seven meant.
As only children, Gene and I never had to share anything with siblings or complain “he’s bothering me!” Having old-school parents, they left us to our own devices and friends if we stayed out of trouble and didn’t kill ourselves. And when alone, we learned to pursue our own interests.
When I studied growth and development, I learned about parallel play. Two children are together, but each is involved in his own activity. They are not interacting, but enjoy being with each other. That’s not to say they never interact, but mostly tool along on their own.
Gene had his interests and I had mine. They intersected when he joined me, or I joined him, in a social event related to one of our interest groups. But we generally encouraged each other in our separate pursuits.
You need that this minute?
As his illness stole his independence, Gene needed help to pursue his interests, which to be honest, did not thrill me. For the life of me, I could not get excited about an N scale train layout. Bored, my mind wandered all over the place, but I helped because I wanted him to enjoy what he could.
In time, I learned to hold my appointments loosely as well. At the last minute, he could say, “I don’t feel good,” and my plans would pop like a balloon stuck with a pin. That did not thrill me, either. I worried what “not feeling good” may portend, and angry that my schedule suddenly changed.
At first I struggled to bury my frustration, and over time, these incidents bothered me less. People could say only children can be selfish, but we really are not. We’re very good at sharing and pitching in. For me, my frustration grew from loss of control over my time since I’m goal oriented. I write “to-do” lists and sometimes put the tasks on a time schedule to play beat-the -clock.
Eventually, my husband had to come first in all things. Full stop. I grew so used to foiled plans, scaled down goals, that my sense of frustration faded.
Where’s God in this mess?
As I prayed for wisdom and patience, I realized God had formed an elegant plan for our lives. He knew Gene would need a caregiver/nurse, and that explains the bizarre story of how we met. God also knew that I could be inpatient and a somewhat spoiled “only,” so he killed two birds with one stone.
Perhaps God used my dear husband’s care needs to chisel away at my selfishness. I thought, though, if that was God’s plan, my poor husband will need to live to be 100 before I get where God wants me. Thankfully, in his mercy, he declared, “good enough,” at the perfect time.
Is it possible that caregivers, like Job, endure losses to fulfill godly purposes we barely grasp? There may be a method to this world’s trials we do not understand in this life. I would guess when we move on to the eternal, we’ll say, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that”?