A few years ago my mother and father in law were talking about selling their home and building a new one in a site condominium a few miles down the road from where they live now. The home would have been smaller, not as nice, and away from their twin daughters. Plus, my mother in law loves her flower gardens, and they really like their home.
I spent 20 years working in the land title business and saw this same scenario with other elderly people many times. I started crunching numbers and was showing my husband, Brian, what those numbers looked like. We took the estimated sales price of their home, plus all the closing costs and realtor fees. It was sad, because they would take all of their net proceeds to build their new home in this site condominium. It would be smaller and not as nice as where they live now. It would be away from their daughters.
I remember talking to Brian and I told him, “If I was in a position to have 2 of my children so close to my home, I would not want to move away from them.” Also, I am the type that I like to put down roots and make a place my home, and when I do, it is heartbreaking for me to leave. I knew for my mother-in-law, Dorothy, it would be hard for her to leave her home.
I kept thinking about it and talked to Brian. I suggested that maybe we could offer to move in with them and help take care of them. That way they could stay in their home.
We started talking to his mom and dad about it as well as praying about it. We felt like we should do it; that it was the right thing to do.
We talked it over with my in-laws and decided we would renovate the basement of their home, and build a very open living space for us. We have 1 closet, a bed, a small sitting area, a small area to eat, our kitchen, and a bathroom. I have an area for my kilns and glass art and we have an area for laundry, exercise equipment, and Brian's office (he works remotely from home now). All of this in 1100 sq foot of space. We ended up getting rid of about 60% of everything we owned. This was somewhat difficult, because we had to get rid of things that were hard to give up. But we did it and we moved in October of 2016.
Currently we are working at paying back the renovation costs, and we pay rent every month in addition to our part of the electric bill. This helps supplement their fixed income, giving them some extra cash. But most importantly, it allows us to be here to help them with things around the house that have become too hard for a couple their age to do. Such as, shoveling, snow-blowing, and keeping the roofs cleaned off (snow buildup). Yes, we live in Northern Michigan and it gets cold! We have snow. Sometimes a lot of snow!
We do things like take out the garbage, weekly recycling, and cleaning their refrigerator, weeding in the garden, mowing the lawn, and pruning trees and bushes around the house. I often play the role of “in-house computer tech” to help them with their laptops. We carry things into the house that are too heavy for them to carry. And we sometimes walk their dog, Buddy!
We do some fun things too. Saturday nights we play cards with them; a game called Set Back. Girls against the guys, and we have so much fun!! It is a night that they always look forward to, and we do too!! For the elderly, it is like a night out with friends, especially when you don’t get out much. For us, it is time well-spent in their company.
I think it has been good for them, having us live here. They don’t get so lonely and we get to spend this precious time with them. We are getting to know them so much better and we are able to serve them. It is a privilege to serve, and it is my love language.... so I enjoy serving...... but at times, it has been so hard for Brian and I.
I mean, we both like to serve, but sometimes it hurts when you feel like you are just a “servant.” There were times when we first moved in here, when Brian’s brother and his wife would visit. The family would all be having dinner together upstairs, his one sister would be invited over, and they would all be visiting and spending time together. We felt like the outsiders.... we would come home from work and feel like we were “intruding”... that maybe we should have come in through the “servants’ entrance”... I am sure it wasn't anything intentional, but it was just how we felt at times.
Before Brian worked from home, we worked together. We would have a long day, come home tired, and walk through the door..... his mom always has a smile and a “hello, how was your day?” But then would enter his dad, not with a “hello,” just “I need you to do this.... “ Then we would feel terrible, kind of like all these tasks that were being asked of us, and they were just “annoying interruptions.” Maybe it was more feeling unappreciated... .I don't really know for sure...
At times, Brian has said he feels like an outsider in his own family... .and I wonder if maybe that is how Jesus felt? Here He was, the Son of God, Most High King, here on earth to serve, but at times treated like a servant, instead of being appreciated for who He was and what He did for everyone.... But still He served... and He loved doing it....... He saw others as “worth serving”.....
I remind myself of that when we are asked to do things. This is not an interruption but an opportunity to serve. And we need to keep our hearts and schedules open for these divine interruptions that allow us to serve as Christ served.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:3-5
Is it hard putting our lives “on hold” to do this for my mother and father in law? I am not gonna lie... at times it is soooo hard. Brian and I do not own a home, and we have no idea where we will go when the day comes that both of them are gone. We will have to move out of their house.
We miss having our own place. There are things we want to do that we cannot. Like, we would love to lead a Bible Study for our church, but have nowhere to gather with people in our tiny area downstairs. It is difficult to have our children, their spouses, and our grandkids come and visit—we do not have enough room to host them. We can use the guest room upstairs if it is available, but most times Brian's brother and wife come during holidays when our kids are available to come and visit. So we will probably not have any family time with all of us together for quite some time... but we remind ourselves that it is not about us. This is temporary.
So yes, it has been very hard for us. We feel like our lives are constantly being interrupted by someone else’s needs, needs that we offered to take care of....needs that God wants us to take care of.......
It is hard...... Is it the right thing to do? Yes.
Would we do it again? Yes
Why? Because we are called to be like Christ...
We are learning to let go of our “want-to-do list”, our “desires”, our “dreams”... we put them on hold, and we are learning to embrace this privilege of serving humbly as Christ did.......
Is there anyone reading this that is living with their parents? Or maybe you’re a caregiver that has felt at times like it is all an interruption? I pray that God will help you to see these times as Opportunities to enjoy and to bless your life with!
More of HIM, less of me,
Mary Catherine Jackowski
MOHLOM is more than a shop or a business it is my hearts cry. MOHLOM stands for More of HIM, Less of Me. As I grow older that is my desire for God to fill me and overflow to those around me.