My youngest daughter is expecting her second child, but unfortunately is having a difficult pregnancy. Her husband had to go out of town for a lengthy period (he is finishing up his last semester of medical school in Israel). Mom to the rescue! Fortunately Southwest Airlines began service from Portland (Maine) the week before I flew in. Even better, they had great introductory prices to celebrate their new presence in Portland.
One thing that struck me: why is it so much easier caring for a child – even if that child is an adult – – than a parent? I honestly didn’t mind the cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, marketing, transporting, outpatient visits, childcare, etc. It’s our nature to nurture our children, I guess, but taking care of a parent seems to go against nature. We can never pay back our parents for all the time, care, and love they’ve invested in us. So why is the mitzvah of kivud horim (honoring our parents) so hard? (I am thinking of the final years of my own mother’s life, when she was stricken with Alzheimers and caretaking was so emotionally overwhelming for me.)
A fringe benefit of my trip is that I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my 4 1/2-year old granddaughter. For only the next 2 months, she remains an only child, and the transition to being a big sister will, I’m sure, be quite an life changing experience for her. My other children have multiple children, and I very rarely get to have one-on-one time with those grandchildren. Although I enjoy the commotion, sometimes in their excitement they talk to me all at once. I simply can’t filter their individual voices and wants and needs, and I tend to “shut down.” From my time in Chicago with my granddaughter, I learned that it’s important to schedule “alone time” with each grandchild, so that I can develop a special relationship with each and every one, and better meet their individual needs in a way that I cannot when they are part of a “herd.” Besides, it’s very hard to come up with an activity that everyone will enjoy, since their interests are so diverse as are their developmental stages and age ranges.
I really liked Chicago – – it’s probably the nicest city I’ve visited. It has everything New York has – a beautiful city skyline, lots of cultural activities, great parks, a vibrant Jewish community, plus the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, but unlike New York, people are not in such a hurry to go nowhere. They’re mostly friendly and polite and when driving, never use their horns in place of the brakes. But one thing I simply could not get used to was the close proximity of residential buildings to each other – sometimes as little as 6′ apart. Although my daughter’s apartment was spacious, you could never open the window blinds because to do so meant looking right into the neighboring occupants’ apartment (and this was true of single family homes as well). It was as though I was living in a sealed box, and after living in the Maine woods and looking out onto wide open spaces and sky, it felt terribly claustrophobic. The more I am here in Maine, the more I realize that I don’t think I could ever adapt to city life again – – nor do I want to!