You know that thing you knew would happen, you just didn’t know when?
That’s happening to me, right now.
And whenever this kind of thing happens, I hear the voice of the inimitable Nathan Lane, as Timon the meerkat in Disney’s The Lion King, in his best street-wise Brooklyn accent:
For Timon and his rotund sidekick Pumbaa the warthog, the dreaded event was their buddy Simba the lion growing up, falling in love, and returning to his pride.
For me, it’s helping my parents synthesize 60 years of married life into a one- or two-bedroom assisted living apartment.
I’m an only child, I love my parents dearly, and I’m so happy they’re moving closer than the 400+ miles away where they currently live. And I’m rejoicing that they may be able to actually attend our oldest daughter’s wedding this summer, as they missed our youngest daughter’s wedding this past March because they couldn’t travel.
But I didn’t count on the emotional toll this change would take. On them, or on me.
They live in the third house the’ve owned since I left home 38 years ago. So for me, it’s not the place they are leaving that’s difficult. I never lived there. It’s their home for now, but it wasn’t my childhood home. (Thanks to the U.S. Marine Corps, my “childhood home” would be in about 15 different places.)
It’s what this change represents that hits the hardest.
These are the people who have given me everything. I never had to wait for them to deal with anyone else’s issues, as there never was anyone else. I’ve lived my entire life up until now with a remarkable sense of security, because I could be certain of two things: One, they were always there for me. Not to bail me out of a jam, not to protect me from whatever bad might happen. But just to talk and offer whatever wisdom they had. And two: They always, always accepted me for who I am. There was never even a hint of rejection.
So how do I now ask them to do something we all know needs to happen, but none of us want to happen? Is this how you “honor your father and mother” as God requires in the fifth commandment?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.
But I do know this: I will cherish their remaining years.