“When life gets really crazy, I dream about our vacation.”
Those who know me well would surmise those were my words. I make such statements often. But in actuality they came from my husband Hiram, a calm man who rarely becomes stressed by either hard work or obstacles.
When he uttered those words in March of 2021, life was really crazy.
- We were in month 13 of a home addition project which was supposed to take about 8 months.
- We were filling out the paperwork related to turning 65 this year.
- The grandchildren, ages 6 and 3, who live with their parents in the lower level of our house, were going through a less-than-endearing phase.
- We were unable to go out for a meal or to a coffee shop because of the pandemic and a cold spring that put the kibosh on dining outdoors.
Not quite what he expected for his last year before retiring on June 30. He had every reason to dream about our upcoming month long vacation–on the rare occasions when we’re not occupied with the addition, paperwork, or grandkids.
I smiled at him on that crazy day. “I do the same thing. I can’t wait.”
The next day my mother’s health took a turn for the worse. April and May became a blur of phone calls and advocacy, along with emails and texts to my siblings about the excruciatingly slow ordeal of locating a residential facility able to meet her increased care needs.
My sister replied to one of those emails. “You’re under a lot of stress.”
She’s really smart.
“I’m concerned about the timing of all this,” she went on. “Will you and Hiram be able to go on vacation.”
She also knows how to get to the point.
I stared at her email and recalled my husband words. “When life gets really crazy, I dream about our vacation.”
I began to type. “Unless Mom’s death is imminent, we are leaving on July 1 and will be gone the entire month. You and John (our brother) will take good care of her.”
Now, if you are caring for a child, spouse, or parent with disabilities, my reply may not sit well with you. After all, respectable caregivers should always put their loved ones’ needs above all others.
As a caregiver, I understand that reasoning. Sometimes our loved ones have to be our top priority. Such was the case after our baby boy was born. He was allergic to everything except breast milk for the first year of his life. During those 12 months, he came first. Always.
However, as my mom demonstrated, such is not always the case. She cared for her disabled husband at home for 24 years and for 14 more years when he was in a nursing home. He was her top priority most of the time. But every once in a while, she made other members of her family her top priority. She arranged for friends and relatives to stay with Dad or to visit him in the nursing home so she could visit her kids and grandkids. When she returned home, her husband was glad to see her, to look at the pictures she’d taken, and to listen to the stories she had to tell.
Mom spent her life giving to others. Now her energy is failing and her days are growing short. Even so, she has a final gift to offer–her example. I hope you embrace it and find the courage to put someone other than your child or your spouse or your parent with caregiving needs at the top of your priority list. I hope you will honor her by expanding your loved one’s circle. By inviting others to participate in your loved one’s care.
Mom’s example is why my brother and sister are eager to care for her while my husband and I are gone. Mom’s example is why I’m taking my husband’s words seriously.
“When life gets really crazy, I dream about our vacation,” he said. Just once.
He’s about to retire after 31 years as a hospital nurse.
The final year of his career was during the pandemic.
Instead of complaining, he provided for his family.
He made me his top priority.
Now thanks to Mom’s example, for the entire month of July, he will be mine.
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. She’s also the creator and host of the Different Dream website. Sharing Love Abundantly With Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, was released in August of 2019 and is available at local bookstores, their bookstore website, and at Amazon.
Latest posts by Jolene Philo (see all)
- When Life Gets Really Crazy, I Dream about our Vacation (06/28/2021) - May 26, 2021
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- 4 Special Needs Parenting Truths - March 26, 2018