Dinner with their elderly mother
Once there was a feeble old woman whose husband died and left her all alone, so she went to live with her son and his wife and their own little daughter. Every day the old woman’s sight dimmed and her hearing grew worse, and sometimes at dinner her hands trembled so badly the peas rolled off her spoon or the soup ran from her cup. The son and his wife could not help but be annoyed at the way she spilled her meal all over the table, and one day, after she knocked over a glass of milk, they told each other enough was enough.
They set up a small table for her in the corner next to the broom closet and had the old woman eat her meals there. She sat alone, looking across the room at the others. Sometimes they spoke to her while they ate, but usually they just let her be.
One evening just before dinner, the little girl was busy playing on the floor with her building blocks, and her father asked her what she was making. “I’m building a little table for you and mother,” she smiled, “so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big.”
Her parents sat staring at her for some time and then suddenly both began to cry. That night they led the old woman back to her place at the big table. From then on she ate with the rest of the family, and her son and his wife never seemed to mind a bit when she spilled something, every now and then.
… and father (Bob) says:
The really sad part of this story is that there are many sons and daughters who treat their parents this way, or worse. My sons, I know deep in my soul that you are not like those sons and daughters. I hope that I raised you to respect all persons – but most especially the smallest and weakest among us – the children and the old folks.
Adults look at the youth of today and ask, “How did they get that way?” I’ll tell you how they got that way – we raised them that way. If our children don’t care about us old folks or turn us out, it is because that is how we raised them. We adults need to stop blaming the youth. In fact, we need to stop blaming anyone. We need merely to decide what we would have, and then choose it, be it, and do it.
And one more thing, my sons, if you wish to have happy, well-adjusted, caring, and loving children, let the old folks help raise your children. I wasn’t old enough or wise enough to raise you until you were pretty well grown. Fortunately, I had a lot of help from the old folks in the earlier years – your grandparents, your great aunts and uncles, and all the other older folks in your lives. I had the energy, but they had the wisdom. It takes both to successfully raise children.
You boys were fortunate to have had the wisdom-of-the-ages passed on to you during your time with the “old folks” – even though you weren’t aware that it was happening. Outback expeditions and cruises with Grandpa Humbert; Sunday after-church brunches and card games with Grandma Humbert; and fishing and boating excursions with Grandpa Yano. These were all occasions when, unknown to you, you learned what life was, is and can be – and it was wrapped in love. You cannot get that kind of education in any school or even in most churches. All children should be so fortunate.
My sons, don’t put the old folks out to pasture – unless you let your children play and grow in that same pasture.
…and Father (God) says:
My children, I’ll tell you a secret. Do you know why “old folks” usually get shorter and stooped-over as they age? It’s so that they can be closer to my children; so that they can hold them, teach them, and love them more easily.
My children, open your eyes, open your minds, open your souls. See what works in your lives and choose it. Look at your Native American cultures before they were forcefully changed. Families included children, parents, and the elders. Parents had the children and taught them physical skills – how to hunt, how to cook, how to work, and how to play. But the elders taught them wisdom; taught them about the spirits; taught them about me.
I tell you this: You pay a huge price when you separate your children from your old folks, whether by distance, or worse yet, by bad feelings carried over from your own childhood. See what works and choose it. Choose love; let your old folks love my children.
* * *
A home in which there is no love,
is only a house.