I’ve been telling the story of my midlife crisis and how I moved 3,000 miles away from the place I had lived for 20 years. God provided friends, work, a place to live, and more when I moved to Seattle.
After I had lived in Seattle for a few months, some things out of my control started happening that threatened my ability to continue living in my newfound home. It was December of 2007, and suddenly the economy drastically changed. My friends at church started having difficulty finding new jobs, and there were rumors of an impending collapse of the banking system.
Then the economy hit me personally.
The permanent position I’d expected to replace my contract job was revoked, and by January I was unemployed save for a part-time job that would not pay my bills.
In addition to money troubles, a friend of my elderly father called from Florida to tell me that his health was declining and that he was not thinking clearly anymore.
I decided right then I had to leave and take care of my father.
With almost no money, I again found myself packing all my belongings into my car with over 150,000 miles. It was clear I could not just drive diagonally across the country in January — too many snow-closed mountain passes in the way.
I made a plan to drive down the West Coast along the ocean where there was less chance of snow blocking roads. Then after San Diego I would cross the Desert Southwest, taking the southern most route to Florida.
I had barely enough money for the trip, and I knew I could not afford car repairs. Because my father was too sick and confused to do anything to help, I could not ask him for money. That motivated me to pray intently that God would provide and keep my worn car running.
God did provide in several ways. First, I had no mechanical breakdowns or crashes. Also, several of my online friends allowed me to stay with them along the way so I didn’t have to sleep in my car.
One guy my age in Northern California had some advice for me. He knew I was over 40 and driving around the country again after only a few months in Seattle, now with no job. He said:
Stop acting like an 18-year-old and act your age!
I am laughing inside as I think about how many people have said the same thing to me before and since!
I spent a few days in San Diego with a married couple who had moved there from my former church back East. They were extremely generous. Not only did I have a room to sleep in, but also pancakes cooked by the wife. She kept serving me and her husband more and more and more until I physically couldn’t eat it all! I definitely didn’t need to buy any food for a while after that!
I spent the night in Austin in the house of some same-sex attracted (SSA) Christian friends whose blogs I had been reading. I ate dinner with those guys at a restaurant, and we laughed and acted a little too stereotypically “gay.” I was not used to that kind of freedom from feeling forced to act traditionally masculine, so I definitely enjoyed my time there with them.
Eventually, I made it to Florida and moved in with my father. God provided all I needed, plus I got to go wandering around the U.S. like Tom Zuniga, enjoying people and places I never would have seen otherwise. God is so good!
Soon, the reality of my situation started to hit me: here I was, over 40 years old and living with my elderly father.
My mother had already passed away, and so I was his main caregiver.
I was facing the prospect of being my father’s nurse and housekeeper every day for the rest of his life.
I loved my father, but that was not the adventurous life I was dreaming of!
Has God ever led you down a drastic change of course? Have you cared for either of your parents, or do you anticipate doing so one day? How did/does being a caretaker make you feel?
Wow Marshall…thanks for sharing this. Since my dad died many years ago at a fairly young age, I have been taking care of my mom. At that time, we lived in upstate NY in a lovely home with several acres of property. We have no family even close, so it was my mom and I “against the world” so to speak. We had a man in the church who would help us repair things, but that was about it.
Now, 3 years ago, we moved down to SC to be closer to some family. I do most things to help her…fixing meals, taking care of the yard etc.
I consider it a privilege, quite frankly. I know one of the 10 commandments is to honor our father and mother…” and I believe it pleases that heart of our Father when we do such. God never promised things would be easy or perfect, and there are times we need to “die” to self in order to serve. There may be a “cost” like not having a social life, but God honors our commitment and He can reward in His time and way. God’s best to you as you do His work in caring for your dad.
Thanks for the encouragement! I was glad to take on that responsibility when my father needed me for exactly the reason you mentioned. I wanted to obey God’s command to honor my father. There were challenges, but it was worthwhile.
It was so good to hear more of your story. I believe God will bless you as you honor your mother!
By the way, this is not the end of my story. More happened later to change my life again.
Thanks Marshall…and we all need that encouragement…
I remember the last thing my father said to me before he died was “take care of your mother.” I promised I would. A couple of moments later, a big smile came on his face and his eyes brightened and then he was gone. I knew what had happened…he was seeing his Savior waiting to welcome him home and he was seeing the splendor of heaven…something we can only imagine right now.
the next days were a blur…and I recall the day when everyone was gone and the house was quiet again. I came home from work and my mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner. She had been crying…and I could hardly eat as I chocked back the tears. As I sat there in the bleak mid-winter…with the darkness…the cold…the snow and ice outside…I wondered what would happen to us. Things did not look good at all…
And yet, all that year, God set a table before me…till my cup was overflowing. He provided over and above all I could ever ask or think. He gave me opportunities that I never had again…like day trips to see places…overnight trips too that I enjoyed so much and countless other things. I had even won a raffle at work for 2 25 lb. turkeys and another raffle for a week of free hot meals in the company cafeteria.
As Christmas approached…I knew it would be hard as the memories of other Christmases would come back. Knowing how hard this season can be for others, I planned a number of special things…concerts to attend, venues to enjoy…trips to take. There were trains to catch, buses to take to places like Cape May, NJ for a Victorian Christmas…Bethlehem, PA for a Moravian Christmas…the Amish country in Lancaster, PA etc. And then…I had gone to a dinner theater with a bus tour to a buffet lunch and Christmas show afterwards. During the performance, they turned out the lights and put the spotlight on one of the singers…a delightful young man. He came down into the audience and walked up to me and sat down and sang to me…he never knew how much that meant…
Some verses that kept me going in that incredible year include:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)
“I have seen the goodness of the Lord dwelling in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13)
“He satisfies our years with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5)
I’ve said more than enough!!!!!!
I can so relate to your experiences of God caring for you during the pain of grief! Many times when I was grieving a loss, God would provide a new friendship or heart-felt encouragement from a current friend. There are so many things to thank God for!
Indeed…God doesn’t forget us and provides so well.
I suspect my parents’ “Plan A” is (1) Ryan becomes fabulously wealthy, (2) they are thereby taken care of in their old age. Not sure it’s panning out exactly that way (haha) but I’d like to take better care of them than just moving them into a nursing home if/when it comes to that. I really hope I don’t have to make the decision between taking care of them and staying rooted in life where I’m at.
So much can change in the next few years! My own plans, as you will see, went back and forth to several different alternatives over the years. Much depends on how your parents’ health and desires change.
[…] “Abandoning My New Life to Care for My Father” by Marshall […]
Caring for parents is something on my mind. My sister and I are talking about it more and more as my parents’ health begins to decline as they age. Sadly my parents are extremely stubborn so it will not be easy to help them.
Thank you for sharing this story. It’s encouraging to hear from others who have gone before and have experience from this season of life.
It is good to start talking to your siblings now before there is a crisis.
In my case I have only one sister and she has 4 children. She works as a nurse on the night shift and her husband also has a full time job. There was no way she could take any responsibility for our father, so I knew it was my job.
You might solve some problems before they happen if you agree now to share specific responsibilities among the siblings.