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Role reversal

April 21st, 2011

I had my father to my house for dinner last night. He is 89 years old living in an assisted living home.

I opened the car door for him, I helped him put on his jacket, I drove him, I cooked for him, I supported him when he walked…I am doing all the things he used to do for me.

I know he does not want to be in this position; I know he wishes to be on his own, live independently like he used to.

Lisa Belkin in the New York Times related an account of an ankle injury when she had to be dependent on her grown sons.

My mother has often said that she fears the day she will have to lean on me, because it is supposed to be the other way around. Yes, that’s what children do for parents in need. But it is not what parents want to need their children to do.  As [my son] spent the rest of his spring break driving me to doctor’s appointments and fixing my morning coffee and running errands, it was a glimpse of the future, both comforting and discomfiting, reassuring and worrisome.

Mostly, though, I was proud. I will always see the child within, which makes the glimpses of him as others see him so very precious. It’s like running into a friend in a place you never expected them to be — for a moment they are a stranger, out of context…

One day, hopefully not soon, I will be leaning on my children. I hope that I have raised them to understand the circle of life, that everyone has the chance to be on both the receiving as well as on the serving end. And to accept both graciously.


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