Recently, I have had a new element thrust it's way into my daily life. I would never consider it an intrusion or unwelcome element at all. My dad, whose health has been precarious as of late, has moved up to where I am stationed. This seems to be a long term deal. Right now, he is in the rectory and will be as we secure permanent housing and when I feel secure that he can live on his own. I will admit, that for the first few days I have felt a bit overwhelmed by this and carrying my normal schedule as a pastor and priest. I started praying about it and reflecting upon it and trying to avoid becoming a whiner about it. I know my dad deserves better and so does my parish.
I am blessed to come from a family where we take care of our own. My mom became a primary caretaker for both of her parents when they became old and started to grow weak and sick, even turning her dining room into my grandmother's bedroom in my grandmother's last days. My dad took early retirement from a job he loved and moved halfway across the country to take care of his parents when they grew sick and elderly. He took care of them for years. Both of my parents set wonderful examples and reminders that honoring your mother and father do not end when the child leaves the home. I consider it a privilege to continue the family tradition.
As I was starting to feel overwhelmed, it came to me in prayer that I am doing for my dad what he did for me as a child. My dad worked long hours, many at jobs he disliked, to provide for our family. He worked hard and every dime he had went to the family. I remember as a young boy noticing that dad's clothes were threadbare a lot. I didn't know what it meant. I noticed that he waited till the kids had food before he took his own. I didn't know what that meant either. I do now. He sacrificed for his family even if it meant denying himself in the process. Dad did for decades. Very rarely was it appreciated; in fact, more often than not, it was taken advantage of and presumed upon. Of course, I can now view this from the vantage point of an adult. From that same vantage point, I know I must show that same dedication that was shown to me. He did all that work and came home. He dealt with all the problems and joys of being a dad...running us to and fro...listening to our whining....watching out for us when we were sick.
I cannot imagine this is going to be easy. Where dad got to watch his work pay off in seeing his children grow, find careers, find spouses, have their own families, I will watch as dad starts the slow decline as he prepares for eternal life. That's okay. I am blessed with a position that will allow me to do this, with a parish that has already shown its support to me and my dad, an understanding bishop, a good network of friends to support me , and a God who I know will give whatever is necessary to live up to the challenge presented. I really do feel privileged as his son and as a priest to step into this role. Pray for me and my dad...and all my family as well...as we embark on this new course in our lives.