by Connie Gochenaur
As I tried to sleep, I listened to my mom over a recently-installed baby monitor, and after several minutes, I heard a few deep sighs as she tried to settle. She has been living in our home for 4 months, and I have been her caregiver. Mom doesn’t like being dependent on anyone, and I know she isn’t happy living here in my house. She wants to go home.
I am cast in triple roles between generations — daughter, mother, and grandmother simultaneously. My mother will soon celebrate her 88th birthday, and I have 4 grown daughters of my own. Like many women, I prayed to become a mother and would have done anything to assume that role. I think of Hannah in the first book of Samuel, barren for many years, pouring her heart out to God, and promising to give her child back to Him, if only He would bless her with a son. It’s a story of sacrifice, surrender, and survival.
Today, our youngest daughter is packing up everything she owns for her last semester of college. I watch as closets empty, contents of drawers scatter across her bed, and books are piled high. I am happy for her, and the timing is right, yet as I watch boxes fill up, tears flow down my cheeks. This time she won’t be coming back when the semester ends, and I’m not ready to let her go. I know I didn’t teach her enough. I have so much more to say. But time won’t stand still, and she is ready to begin her own adventure. I pray soft words of surrender as I walk away from her bedroom door.
I check on Mom and find her sitting in her favorite rocker watching an old movie. Over the last year, it has taken a major surgery and 8 hospital stays to find a treatable condition that was simply overlooked, and all those months of illness wrecked havoc on Mom’s mind and body – and on mine as I worried and helplessly watched her slip away. Finally a diagnosis was secured, treatment started, and her body began to recover. Her mind, however, was slower to respond, and the recent diagnosis of dementia prevents her from going home. Every day it is becoming more challenging to care for her as she fights to go back to her house. The days are long for both of us, and sometimes I hide out in the bathroom just to have some space of my own. At times the burden seems heavy, the sacrifice too high.
Mom seems content, and lost in her movie, so I steal away to tuck the last load of towels into the hall closet and almost trip over a Lego spaceship. There were 4 children playing in my house yesterday, and it was crazy and wonderful all at the same time. I have the privilege of caring for these grandchildren two days a week, but now that Mom has come to stay, the chaos seems louder somehow. There are days when it all seems a bit overwhelming, and I find myself watching the clock for 5 o’clock when the “littles” are reclaimed. I try to reassume my role as Gramma, not caregiver, whenever their Mama is around, but sometimes the roles get a little blurred. I try not to overstep, but sometimes, I know I do. My girl is the mother now, and she seems to do it naturally even though she has dual roles herself. As she focuses on those children, she keeps looking back at me. She looks for signs of weariness and stress as she watches me take care of mom. The roles are forever changing and she wants to take care of me.
There is nothing unique about this season of mine as many women my age share these multiple roles. But when it is your own personal script, the emotions, changes, and role reversals are new, often heart-wrenching, and very complex. I sometimes wonder how the women before me have done this, and why I didn’t pay better attention. The new roles can be somewhat confusing, and at times we find ourselves stepping on each other’s lines. As my daughters watch, I try to be honest about the joy and struggles in this cast of characters I play. As I navigate this season, I share the good stuff, and the bad, so that they might be better prepared, for one day they will be cast as the star players in this complicated drama.
Thinking back on the story of Hannah, her surrender of Samuel to Eli at the temple always brings me to tears. The sacrifice is huge, yet she not only keeps her promise, but she worships and praises the Lord as she kisses her son good-bye. I often wonder if she went into survival mode once she returned home and the house no longer resounded with Samuel’s laughter. We learn in 2 Samuel that God blessed Hannah, and graciously gave her 5 more children.
On the days when the sacrifice and survival weigh heavy, and I don’t want to take care of anyone, I try to remember Hannah’s story and the encouragement it offers me. My roles frequently require sacrifice, surrender, and survival, and often the three are conflicted in my heart. But I’m learning the key to my survival, and the reward for my sacrifice is often the surrender. The role of daughter will be gone too soon. I so want to do it right. Daily I give my Mom to the Lord, and pray for grace to love her well. I hold the roles I play loosely in my hands for seasons come and seasons go, and before long, the cast will look different once again. My new mantra is “one day at a time,” and on this day I know, like Hannah, I am a blessed woman for I am a daughter, mother, and grandmother – simultaneously!
Connie Gochenaur is a storyteller and a blogger. The mother of four grown daughters and Grandma to six beautiful grandchildren, she’s a transplanted city girl, now living the “Green Acres” life. Her devotional writing has been featured in The Upper Room and Prodigal. Her passions, outside of writing, are for the local Feed My Starving Children MobilePack, and an art ministry she began for senior citizens. You can find her blogging at mydayswelllived.com.