I smiled when I saw this on a button at a mediators’ conference, and I thought about when shifts have happened for me. For instance, as a Judge I had to know the right answers. Now, as a mediator, I’ve learned that asking the right questions and listening to other people’s stories is more important and a surer route to wisdom—and to the best answers in the situation.
When it became clear that Mom with Alzheimer’s and Dad with stage 4 prostate cancer could no longer live alone my husband Jerry and I decided to invite them to live with us. I had a lot of misgivings, especially about Mom, but given everybody’s circumstances it seemed like the best solution. I speak Spanish and have many Latino friends. Whenever I told Gringo friends what I was contemplating, they’d say, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Or “How generous of you!” Or “Have you thought of …. [Name your alternative]?” This pretty much reflected my own doubts.
But my Latino friends without exception said things like, “Oh, I envy you! I wish I could take care of my parents!” Or “I’m so happy for you!” or “That’s wonderful!” (Not as in, “How noble you are!” but as in “You won the lottery!”)
I was amazed. I started to realize there was more than one way to think about this, and I began to try to see this change in the family as a blessing.
I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna. Caring for parents in your home is not for everyone. Mom eventually needed more intensive care than we could give. But Dad lived with us until he died at 92, and he knew he was wanted and loved.
Jerry once was cleaning a wound Dad had received from falling, and Dad said with tears in his eyes, “I hate to be a burden.” Jerry said, “Art, if it’s a burden, it’s a sweet burden.” And he meant it from the heart.