Do you remember loving the seesaw as a child? To be honest, I never enjoyed the feeling of hovering midair, feet dangling unsteadily. And the moment my feet touched terra firma and I felt that surge of relief, back up I went.
That wavering sensation seems an apt analogy to describe my current emotions. Pondering my dilemma, I sometimes feel up, floating high on the verge of making a decision — a good, honorable, correct decision. Other times I plummet downward, and once my feet are planted on the ground, I realize that the decision isn’t practical, realistic or livable.
So, dear readers, are you ready? Here’s the story, and I hope you will have wisdom to share. My father-in-law is up in years, and my husband and I are considering opening our home for him to move in with our family. He has dropped comments about being lonely, sharing how much he would love to be surrounded by family. Thankfully, he is in good health and would be fairly independent.
Two of our four children still live at home, both of them teenagers, so it is a relatively calm point in our lives to consider this possibility. They’re both easygoing kids, so I think they would be OK with the arrangement. Of course, we will discuss it with them and prepare them as best we can if we decide to follow through. We feel strongly that elderly parents deserve respect, and consigning them to assisted living or nursing homes is tantamount to shirking our filial responsibility. After all, we hope our children will vie for the privilege of hosting us if and when the time comes and not look at us as a burden. (Hear that, kids?)
The advantages are obvious. What an example we would set for our children! The best way to teach is by modeling, right? And I have ideas for how Dad could stay busy. He could get involved in numerous senior citizen groups so he wouldn’t be bored. There are some nice Jewish schools in our area, and Dad could tutor as a volunteer or for pay — he has always loved kids — and what a win-win that would be. The students would certainly gain from his knowledge and patient manner, and he would feel productive. He could even start an after-school chess club — Dad is a master chess player.
But I can’t help wondering and worrying about how things will be down the road. What if Dad’s health declines and he needs more help? Will we be able to afford to hire someone, or will the responsibility fall on our shoulders? Even though he’s in good health and I pray that it continues, many older people seem to take up residence in doctors’ offices. Who, pray tell, will take Dad to all of his appointments? You got it: yours truly. Gulp.
And if you tell me not to live in the future, to focus on the here and now, I still have issues weighing on me. What of the invasion to our privacy? That’s pretty major. I like to come home after work and have the house to myself, even for a short period. It’s critical time I use to unwind, enabling me to recharge to take care of the myriad responsibilities involved in running a home.
And if Dad moves in? I will have to greet him and ask whether he needs anything the moment I walk through the door, right? Isn’t that what a good daughter-in-law and hostess should do? I will have to ask about his day, and he will probably want to hear about mine. And before I know it, my quiet time will go up in smoke, and ravenous husband and children will enter, craving supper and attention. I can already feel the tension slithering up my body.
So I know it’s the right thing to do. Can we measure the hours and years Dad put into rearing his children? How about all of the effort he invested in providing for the family’s needs? Don’t we owe this to him for being there for us when we needed him?
Of course we should open our home and hearts and take the plunge; what is the question? I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with myself otherwise; guilt takes up a lot of headspace. But if this move is as hard as I think it might be, I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with myself anyway.
So I’m stuck. It’s your good, old Catch-22. Does anyone have any sage advice so I can dismount this seesaw?
Your comments are welcome and greatly appreciated. Kindly respond by Monday, March 14, for inclusion in the next column.