“You’re fired!”
That’s what her mother,
age 94, said to Jean.
“What would you do
without my caregiving?”
Jean protested.
“I’m just firing you as my accountant,”
replied her mother.
“It’s true I cannot walk,
nor can I see the best,
but I can still add and subtract.
And better than you!”
At the suggestion of a well-meaning advisor,
several weeks prior Jean had taken over
her mother’s finances.
This was a mother who had a detailed system
for paying and recording her bills,
for regularly tracking her money.
A woman who still had all the records
for her 1932 Ford Model A coupe.
A feisty spirit who not only
demoted her daughter as her bookkeeper,
but took on her daughter’s checkbook and
made it balance for the first time in years.
Meanwhile, Jean went back to doing
only those things her mother could not do alone.
Each was the happier.

Sometimes as caregivers,
we may need to be fired from our jobs.
Not from our whole job of providing care,
of course.
Just from those parts of our work
that we really shouldn’t be doing.
And if someone doesn’t fire us,
we’ll keep on doing those things,
convinced we know what’s best.
The examples are many:
Do we speak for the one in our care,
not realizing we’re denying them their voice?
Do we do for them what they’re able
to do on their own,
not understanding how this delays their recovery
or diminishes their self-esteem?
Do we perform some role for them,
sure they would want us to,
when they don’t want us to at all?
The story of Jean’s mother is a reminder
for us to offer what is truly appropriate,
not what we think is appropriate.
How do we do this?
By listening well.
By watching carefully.
By clarifying our understandings often.
By respecting the other’s boundaries always.
In doing so, we’ll reduce the likelihood
of our receiving too many pink slips.

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