Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Nied. "My son take care of your father when he is old."


“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
               -Mark Twain

As a great man once told me you can never tell someone you love them enough.

As I was praying over the readings for this Feast of the Holy Family I kept being drawn to the first reading from the Prophet Sirach.  There was someone from my last parish that kept coming to mind.  I remembered him always brining his elderly parents to the Saturday Vigil mass.  He faithfully brought them for every mass and sat with them in the front pew.

I was always impressed by the way that Greg cared for and attended to his parents and also know of the great respect that he has for them.  So I gave him a call and said "Hey Greg, I've been thinking about you and praying for you.  How are your parents?"  He went on to tell me of their latest struggles and then made sure to sincerely ask how I was.  "I answered briefly but said Greg this is why I'm really calling.  Do you want some homework?"  (This was a Friday afternoon by the way).  Greg, without hesitation, said: "Father, you know I will never say no to you."  So I asked him to pray with the first reading from this Sunday and share with me what it is like to take care of your parents when they are old.  Greg, instead of going to the movies Friday night, spend the evening doing just this.  As I hoped it turned out to be a very beautiful reflection.

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;

grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,

Greg's Reflection in his own words:

I am my father and mother’s son

"Watching my parents grow old makes for the the hardest moments of my life that I have faced to date.  It is such a contracts to the family memories of my youth, and of the family my wife and I are raising today. Remembering my early family event’s puts smiles to my mouth, and a few tear behind my eyes, more often than I want. My earliest memories of my dad are going to 8 am mass every Sunday morning, we were ushers at that mass, greeting and seating people, taking up the collection, releasing each pew to go to the rail in front of the altar to receive Holy Communion, and handing out the bulletin after mass. My mother and four sisters would go to a later mass because we only had two small bath rooms for seven of us.  During the mass dad and I would sit in the back of the church, dad would give me his rosary to occupy me when me during the reading’s or homily. I would pretend that the rosary was a semi and I was driving it up and down hills. I also played with my dad’s leather gloves, I very vividly recall just how large the gloves were, both of my hands would fit into one glove with plenty of room to spare, I wondered if my hands would get that large.

My mother was a tuff as nails type person, like Betty Davis or Barbara Stanwyck... full of love, but 'Do as I tell you or else!'  I confess I have grown to admire that quality in people today. Oh, by the way mom and dad are 100 % polish, 'good stock' as I like to call it. Mom did all the raising of me because Dad owned his own business and was always at work and I am the last of 5 kids by just how many years I am not allowed to say. She wanted the best for us, as I saw it, I say that because there 5 of us and I am sure each one of use has a different story or side of it. Together they made me who I am today and I never will be able to thank them enough or repay them. Mom was a great cook she would make great meals for all of us when the whole family was at home, and when it was just dad and myself, we never had cold food for lunch, I never thought about it until my wife brought it to my attention after one great hot meal with candles lit.

Dad started a garden center back in the early 50’s and he was never home, mom ran the show she took all the responsibility of raising me. When I did have a problem and went to my dad I would tell him what was on my mind and all I would get was one of this famous one liners like: 'Tomorrow is another day.' 'It will all work out in the end.'  'Love many, trust few always paddle your own canoe.'  'If it’s not one thing it is another.'  When you are going through teen problems or are asking questions you want more than that. I can say now, my father was the greatest person in my life though, in the fact that he let me do for the most part whatever I wanted to do within reason knowing, trusting that I would learn from it, and if I didn’t he would be there to help me. No one can tell you how hot fire is, dad would also make wise recommendations and I could do what I wished. THEY TOGETHER MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY, I CAN NEVER THANK THEM ENOUGH OR DO ENOUGH TO REPAY THEM FOR THERE UNWAVERING LOVE AND SUPPORT.

Ok, now that the back ground has been set, today is a much different story. The first hard moment was about 5 to 10 years earlier when dad and I were talking and I noticed he was looking at me and listening to me!  'My God' I thought, that was a first, who was getting older?  Taking away his driving privileges was another painful moment in time for all of us.  I had difficulty understanding what was happening to our father, the guy with the big hands, that I always wondered if my hands would be like his. I remember one instance when I was helping him try to find the legal he was working with that day, later I found out that this was the first stage of Lewy Body Dementia.

Life is starting to get painful, changes are coming.  My wife is in medical field and she is letting me know just what is up.  It continues to get worse and I know the worst is yet to come.  About two years ago, dad started to shuffle this feet so he lessened the chances of a fall. This past year dad now a use a walker with Christmas bells.  Those two sounds have made me cry more then you will ever know unless you have been there.  I or we could never understand when were your mom and dad’s young children, only time, only time.  I have saved my father best one liner for last.  It is “Old too soon, smart too late”.  

It truly is very painful on both ends. As you can tell, I have spent more time with dad now than my mom, I run the business and try to spend as much time at home with my family, also I love our Lord our God and to spend as much time at Church as I can.  I can never thank him for all the talents he has bestowed on me.  I can never repay my parents for loving me through the growing-up years and through all of the times that I let them down, they never stopped calling me their son.

Mom has lost the ability to talk so we do not know what she is saying.  We now use a dry erase board to try to understand her but that too is becoming a lost cause. Mom weighs 97 pounds, and dad is down to 159, that "rock" used to weigh 220. 

One day I put my hand on dads back to support him and I could not count high enough to count all the bones in his back. I take mom and dad to church every Saturday and consider it a honor for all they have given to me. They still love each other and always tell us to take care of your mother, her first. 

IT HURTS EVER DAYTO SEE THIS but feels GREAT to give back. Looking back at it now thru the eyes of a 56 year old person it hurts the most that I can never say 'thank you' enough and 'just how much I love you.' 

Have you had the privilege yet of taking care of your parents?

Are you right now experiencing the joys and sorrows, the grieving and the pain of watching them get old?  

If you parents have already died, you could consider talking to them in prayer, apologizing to them, thanking them, telling them I love you, and hearing them say it back.  We believe in the communion of Saints.

Would you ever consider being a minister to the homebound and caring for the elderly?

It is such a privileged experience to care for someone who has cared for you, to love someone out of this world who loved you into it, and to realize the sacredness of these movements before they are over.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;

"Old too soon, smart too late."


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Thank you to the Nied Family for your witness and your willingness to share this journey with your parents with all of us.  I love you very much, Fr. Michael

If you are ever in the Northfield area visit The Nied Garden Center!

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