There’s Always Room For One More

It has been one month since my father-in-law moved in with us. Biggest challenge? Cooking enough food! I’m rather expert at cooking just enough most of the time, but he has thrown a monkey wrench in my meal plans by arriving rather suddenly and eating full sized portions, so I’m still adjusting. Also, my laundry rhythm is a little chaotic. Because his bedroom is adjacent to the laundry room, I don’t start laundry till he’s awake, instead of when I’m awake, so I’m getting a much later start. And he seems to have pushed us over the edge into a third load of daily laundry, so that I’m now doing four to five loads a day instead three to four. Minor logistical issues, yes?

Other than that, the children and I are loving his company. (Davey hasn’t said one way or the other and I won’t presume to speak for him.) He goes to senior tai chi down in Hardin County and plays cards at the local senior center once or twice a week. He goes shopping for bananas and oatmeal cookies and drives himself to the doctor. He reads the paper and watches the cable tv we had installed in his room. And he takes the time to get to know his grandchildren. He watches them and talks with them and I hear pretty often, “It’s so nice to have a grandpa in the house!”

Irrelevant Photo #1: The only bit of color we have! This single red-leafed branch growing up through a tangle of fence wire.

Irrelevant Photo #1: The only bit of color we have! This single red-leafed branch growing up through a tangle of fence wire.

I was talking to my mother a little while before he arrived and she said she wouldn’t want to be a burden to any of her children. I had to agree, because I wouldn’t want to be a burden to mine, either. Except…

That’s all wrong.

I’m finding that he is no more of a burden than any of the children are, and they are burdens only because in loving someone else, you have to sacrifice a little bit of your own self: a little bit of your own time, of your own desires, of your own will. You sacrifice these things – willingly – for the love of the other person, and the burden is happily borne, even embraced.

And that’s all this is.

Irrelevant Photo #2: My sweet Laney working on her art.  Her patience and talent and diligence in practicing for improvement are inspiring to me!

Irrelevant Photo #2: My sweet Laney working on her art. Her patience and talent and diligence in practicing for improvement are inspiring to me!

I was out shopping not long ago with one of the girls, and it was quite crowded on the streets. We got to a busy intersection, where there is a side street that can be very difficult to get out of in heavy traffic. The SUV in front of me let a car in, and I was anticipating leaving space for the other car to pull out in front of me, but when the light changed, that SUV let the other vehicle in, too, leaving no one for me!

“How rude!” I said. My companion looked at me funny, so I clarified, “He denied me the opportunity to be charitable! He let both cars in and denied everyone else behind him the opportunity to do a good deed, and that is rude!”

“Does it matter, as long as the good deed got done?” she asked.

A few days later, we were at our parish, selecting a needy child from the angel tree to buy Christmas gifts for. I had budgeted for two, but there weren’t very many angels left. I glanced around the room, gauging the number of people who might still want angels, and decided not to take a second. “Because it’s rude to deny other people the opportunity to be charitable,” I said to my girl with a wink. And she was starting to understand.

Irrelevant Photo #3: My indoor photography skills are greatly lacking, but I like this one because, while Meg was diligently trying to ignore me, Davey was making faces in the background.  I so love these people!

Irrelevant Photo #3: My indoor photography skills are greatly lacking, but I like this one because, while Meg was diligently trying to ignore me, Davey was making faces in the background. I so love these people!

It’s the same thing with denying our children the opportunity to care for us in our old age. Oh, yes, sometimes health considerations make a nursing home the best choice, but in a lot of cases, an aging parent can be served just as well in the home, and the graces for both the parent and the family far outweigh whatever burdens there may be.  When we choose not to “burden” our children, we are denying them the opportunity to love as Christ loves.

I say this with a whole month of experience under my belt, so I know what I’m talking about.

And also, there really is always room for one more. People always ask that when we’re having a new baby. “Where are you going to put everybody?”

And I just shrug and say, “There’s always room for one more!”

But babies are babies, small and adaptable, and adults come with their own tastes and hopes and ways of doing things. But we made room, in our home and in our hearts, and it’s true. There really is always room for one more.

So don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of having another child or taking in a parent. The graces and blessings far outweigh the burdens.

Have a lovely day!

6 thoughts on “There’s Always Room For One More

  1. Michelle Reitemeyer says:

    My mother says the same thing about “not being a burden,” and I find it so obnoxiously self-martyring. I remember when my great-grandmother lived on her own, and I remember when she moved into the downstairs bedroom of her daughter’s farmhouse, and I remembering being shushed because Bubba was sleeping, and I remembering going in to see her for just a few minutes because she was awake and could handle a rowdy visitor…and I remember that she couldn’t speak any English at the end, so a nursing home in the US would have been awful for her, I think, unless it was staffed by some Slovak nurses. I guess my mother remembers that, too, but from the eyes of an adult watching her mother care for her, as well as doing household chores and feeding a bevy of teen and young adult farm boys (3-4 lived at home then, plus my aunt who was also late teens, early 20’s). Sure, it was hard work. But I tell my husband all the time, when he worries about me having a hard life (my vacuum cleaner is half-broken, so it IS a hard life, you know, until I can afford another one) that idle hands make the devil’s work, so I don’t mind having a lot to do.

  2. Jennie Cooper says:

    I think it’s crazy easy to kind of push God off to the side when everything is running smoothly, when there are no hardships. When we’re struggling – a little or a lot – we have to lean on Him harder. We pray more, both in supplication and in thanksgiving for the blessing we DO have. And the hardships, and how we handle them, define us and develop us much more profoundly than an “easy” life ever could. I do not wish an easy life on my children. 🙂

    But also, we’re called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, and we can’t follow him, be like him, love like him, if we never accept the “burdens” thrown our way. If we just open up and love the person in front of us, care for the ones right in our midst, what a different world this would be.

  3. Barbara says:

    I’ve been saying that for many years. When a parent comes to live with you, you both have to humble yourselves, and you both receive grace. I think when parents truly resists living with their children it’s because they don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices to their comfort. And that’s selfish. Being together is a win/win.

    • Jennie Cooper says:

      Oh, it really is, Barbara. I was terrified, but everybody is giving just a little and that makes all the difference. And in Ed’s case, he was just so lonely and it’s done him so much good just to be around family all day.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    And this. Mark’s dad lived with us for seven years before he died in July. You say very well what I tried to explain to others. Be not afraid, there is always room for one more and it is such a privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ.

    • Jennie Cooper says:

      I’m sorry for your loss, but so very glad your family was able to open your hearts and your home to him. It makes such a difference to our parent to know that he is loved and wanted.

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