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Honor Thy Family, Honor Thyself

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My mother’s parents, in their later years, moved from Hawaii, where they’d spent much of their retirement, to Ohio so that they could be closer to their children and grandchildren.  My grandmother suffered a series of debilitating strokes soon after they moved, and my parents, especially my mother, became instrumental in supporting both my grandparents, emotionally and, often, logistically.  

My mother made sure our family visited them regularly during the week.  She helped my grandfather adjust to his new roles of caretaker, housekeeper and cook – tasks my grandmother had primarily done during the fifty-plus years of their marriage.  When my grandmother passed away, my parents – geographically the closest of his children – continued the Sunday dinners and afternoon visits with my grandfather.  They took him on family vacations, provided (in the case of my father) second medical opinions, and did everything they could to ensure that he was independent but not alone in the last years of his life.

It was labor, but there was more love than obligation in it.  Although I know both my parents felt blessed to have those last years with my mother’s parents, it was not always easy.  Watching both parents rise to the occasion with love and grace, however, was a powerful lesson for me and my sister.  It is one I think about often as my parents have started their retirements.

So when, at the first meeting of the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Workshop, Diane Fiore revealed that she would be writing about her Saturday drives with her late father, I knew her blog would be good before I read a word.  It was.  

For most of the last year on her blog, Merganser’s Crossing, Diane has been telling the story of how what started as a daughter’s duty to help emotionally and logistically support a father suffering from increasingly intense dementia became a path to a close relationship and better understanding of her dad.  It has been humorous and heartbreaking, honest and enlightening.  Illustrated with sketches, photographs, and now, the loveliest watercolors, it is also evolving.

After learning that her mother had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Diane decided (with her mother’s support and permission) to chronicle the next phase of her journey on her blog.  Already the story has seen her and her husband move so as to support her mother’s needs better.  As she writes simply but compellingly of her new life, navigating the changes and relationships, the same love and grace I once saw in my parents comes shining through.  

We live in an often harsh world.  Too often culture and media not only reflect that harshness, they amplify it.  It makes stumbling on a story like Diane’s all the more valuable and inspiring.  It’s an oasis of kindness and hope, and it’s worth visiting again and again.