Ever-shifting roles are challenging

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I haven’t been completely put out to pasture. Yet.

On Saturday, I had the rare chance to sleep in a little bit and, you can be sure, I was prepared to take full advantage.

Then my phone rang at 8 Saturday morning. My oldest daughter, Anna Kate, was calling from Charlotte.

“Dad, I need your help.”

I was immediately awake and alert, even if my voice didn’t sound like it.

“The car won’t start and I need to jump it. Which set of cables do I put on first?” she asked.

I told her to put them on the operating car first, then attach them to the dead battery, then start the working car and, then, try the dead car.

I cautioned her about putting the cables on the right posts and making sure they matched the other end of the cables before she tried to jump anything.

She assured me she would. I told her to call me back when she was done to make sure she had been able to get the car started.

We hung up, me to go back to sleep if I could, her to resolve her dilemma.

A couple hours later, I hadn’t heard from her, so I called back.

“We couldn’t get it started,” she said ruefully.

The car in question has been on its last legs for a while and Anna Kate’s boyfriend Michael had already started shopping for a new one. The non-starting car will probably be the straw that breaks the camel’s proverbial back. By the time I called her back, they had already used her car to visit a couple car dealerships in the area.

They will figure out their transportation dilemma, I am sure, but as I laid back down in the bed Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but be a little satisfied.

“Yep,” I thought. “She still needs Daddy for something.”

The cycle of life takes most of us from being utterly dependent on our parents to needing them less and less. Eventually, we are fully independent, but we find ourselves still needing a parent from time to time. Sometimes, like Saturday, my daughter needs her Dad. Most of the time, she needs her mother. That’s fine with me. As long as I get an occasional call for help.

Interestingly, that same cycle of life brings our parents around to the place where they grow dependent on their children. Perhaps it’s for an occasional need. Sometimes, it’s around-the-clock care. The roles are reversed. It’s a downright scary proposition when the people we have always turned to now start turning to us. Something about that just seems out of balance. My brother and sisters and I have watched our father struggle with memory issues recently. Seemingly simple decisions are getting more difficult for him and he looks to one of us to help him figure those things out.

On a recent weekend, though, I was at his house and we were outside working on some farm equipment. You could see a 180-degree difference in him. He was self-assured. He was processing the steps of what he needed to do as fast as he could do them. He was energetic. He was the same old Dad I’ve come to know. I was back in my familiar role as the son.

On Saturday, when my daughter called, I slipped easily back into the role of Dad. It felt as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.

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