Paying Debts

I am a caregiver,
along with my siblings,
for our 87-year-old father.
He can no longer shower or dress
without assistance.
He needs help handling his money, his pills,
and his grandchildren’s names.
I sometimes find myself providing various sorts of very personal care
that I never imagined I’d be providing as his son.
Dad says he’s sorry he requires so much of our time (and he is),
yet he continually asks for more and more of it,
requiring many trips to the assisted living facility
where he lives in another town.
With so much else going on in my life,
this constant care sometimes feels like an imposition, a burden.
Then I remember Benjamin Franklin’s humbling words:
“When I am employed in serving others,
I do not look upon myself as conferring favors but paying debts.”
My father would not want me to feel indebted,
yet the truth is that he cared for me
when I could not care for myself,
when my own needs were constant.
As I grew older, I knew I could count on his steadiness,
his kindness, and his own brand of gentle, quiet love.
Time after time in my life, he was there, solidly there.

Whoever we are as caregivers,
we cannot be who we are today,
nor can we do what we do today,
if someone had not cared for us in the past,
if someone had not shown us the way.
Maybe it was a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle,
or the parent on one of our friends.
Maybe it was a neighbor, a teacher or a minister.
Maybe it was the very person who is being cared for right now.
The caring we provide today does not originate with us.
We have something to give because we have been given to.
We are able to share because someone first shared with us.

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