For the first two months after Dad passed, we were tied up with paperwork and planning a virtual funeral service, as Covid was still keeping most people home. After that, I had hip replacement surgery, finally resolving an issue that had worsened over the year. The surgery went well, and my sister came to help. Within 24 hours, I was home and shuffling around on a walker. I felt like I had aged 20 years overnight.
Recovery was slow but steady, and two months later, I flew to NC to see our grandsons, 5 and 2. We had delayed two previous trips to NC due to Covid and then a recurring back issue of mine.
From December, when Dad passed, to the end of May, stuff kept happening, back to back, that kept me from sitting in the quiet and simply experiencing what life without my parents felt like. It was important stuff, good stuff, but I felt a bit like I was on a conveyor belt, moving, moving, moving from one event to the next without soaking it in.
It was June, six months after Dad passed away, when I finally sat in memories and replayed moments that seemed like they had only brushed over me.
My days were quiet and, for the most part, uninterrupted. This had not been my life for 12 years.
I slept in. I stayed up late. I piddled around our house, taking care of small repairs and touch-up painting. I scrubbed, restained, and polished our wooden interior doors. We had vinyl flooring installed, getting rid of old carpet. We hired a small company to paint our house exterior. For some reason, giving attention to our well-lived-in, 33-year old house was soothing and very satisfying. It had suffered some neglect over the years, and I felt like the old girl needed some love.
As we replace and restore things, I’m rediscovering my affection for this house. This surprises me. For years, I complained about the small kitchen, and it’s still small, but it seems OK now. I am feeling blessed.
Something I have continued to do since the passing of my parents is to take baked goods to the caregivers at the ALF where my parents lived. In the past, there were sad days when, upon leaving the facility, I told myself, once Dad and Mom are gone, I’m never coming back here. I am shocked that I still return.
I have even begun to volunteer there one morning a week doing crossword puzzles with the residents. I know so many of the staff members and residents, and they feel like family. I know my attachment will lessen over time; new staff members and residents will arrive, and pretty soon, no one there will know me. And that will be OK. But, for now…I still feel connected. I did not expect this.
I will turn 65 this month. The Medicare card, the social security paperwork, the hip replacement, a lower back issue, and 12 pounds of extra Covid weight…let me tell ya’, I’m feeling old and worn down. (Truth be told, the other hip is starting to bother me. UGH.) I considered looking for part-time work, maybe something I could do from home, so I searched online for jobs that would interest me. Nothing did.
I hadn’t been employed for 12 years; things had changed. I guess it’s retirement for me, I thought.
Then, I reconnected with a good friend I worked with 15 years ago when I was the education director for our local crisis pregnancy center. As a mental health counselor, she was opening a new office in an adjacent county. She invited me to visit. We had a great day catching up, and over lunch, she asked me if I wanted to come work for her as an administrative assistant/coordinator.
“We’re 90 minutes apart,” I said. “I’m feeling old,” I added, “and I haven’t worked in over a decade. The brain is not as quick as it used to be, I’m out of touch with technology, I’m feeling old, and we’re 90-minutes apart.”
She just smiled and said, “It’s all remote.“ She added, “I can show you the programs we use. It’s easy. And right now, it’s only maybe five hours a week.”
Puzzled, I think I just blinked and stared and blinked and stared. And shook my head. She must know someone younger, more tech-savvy, closer.
I finally asked her, “What made you think of me?”
And then she spoke kind and disarming words. Things along the lines of you are compassionate. I need a nice, friendly, voice that greets people on the phone. I know how you work from when we worked together years ago. You are exactly how I remember you.
Wow. While I had been draining my resources and wits and emotional energy as a caregiver, my friend still remembered parts of me that were organized and efficient, and gracious. Caregiving had left me feeling thread-bare, and my counselor friend had a full appreciation for this. But, I guess she also viewed my character as unchanged.
“I’m nearly 65,” I told her. I wanted her to understand that a weathered brain would come with my acceptance.
Unfazed, she replied, “My CFO is 72.”
We both laughed.
It took me a few days to comprehend this offer. I drove home, humbled that this bright, lovely young woman who had created a solid career counseling the wounded and neglected, was asking me to join her on this journey. I simply had not seen myself as a competent, employed woman in a long time. I had only loved on my parents in their very small world for 12 years; my tasks were intense but few and repetitious. My worldview, and brain, seemed to have shrunk quite a bit. Was I up to taking on the administrative duties of a growing business?
My family thought so. The hubs had no doubt I could learn and relearn and figure it out. Our adult daughter said, “Mom, you’ve done a hard and sad job with Grandma and Pops for a long time. You need some joy in your life.”
Still unsure, I said yes to the job. 1 Chron. 28:20 is the scripture that shoved me forward:
“Do not be frightened by the size of the task. Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”
Whew. That verse was a direct hit to my heart.
I started the job July 2 – Mom’s birthday. She was an organizer and a writer with an administrative mind. I felt she had a hand in orchestrating this new adventure in my life.
About two weeks into the work, I felt a clearer brain begin to rise up from beneath the hazy cloud of caregiving. I’m feeling more confident. My counselor friend is patient and generous. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help her build her business. I never imagined I would be working again, let alone supporting a friend who feels like a second daughter to me.
It’s funny how we see ourselves, and how others view us. It’s interesting, the roles we take on and unload in life. Unexpected, and even planned events can be devastating or miraculous.
I didn’t plan to be an Air Force wife, but it was an Air Force man who captured my heart.
I never planned to be an educator, but God called me to it.
I never planned to be a caregiver. God placed me there as well.
I never thought I’d be taking a new job at 65, but Mom and my counselor friend had a different vision.
I did not expect to rediscover the blessings of our aging home, or to be doing a weekly, giant crossword puzzle with 80-90 year-olds, but here I am.
I certainly did not expect to be grateful for so many things so soon after losing both parents.
Apparently, God likes surprises.
I’m a little slower on the uptake. I have to process the unexpected, and stew about it and talk to 53 people and anxiety-snack, and then conclude that maybe this is what God wants me to do.
But, I’m learning.
It’s good to know that at 65, I can still do that.