Mom and Dad, 1989

It’s been a tough few months. My mother woke up one day and said her back hurt terribly. We were hoping it would get better, but instead it got progressively worse.  

The next day when she couldn’t get out of bed, I had no choice but to call an ambulance. It turned out that she had five stress fractures in her spine, a result of osteoporosis and sitting all the time.

She spent a week in the hospital and was moved to a nearby skilled nursing facility, where she got the care she needed, but she still complained of intense pain. They took another x-ray and found that she had fractured her hip somewhere between the hospital and care center. Probably because her bones are so brittle, but I think, too, that the aides didn’t realize how fragile she is.

They sent her home a few weeks later because she really had nowhere else to go. Her case worker helped as much as she could, but the family had to decide the best option. So here we are, playing the waiting game, literally. She’s been put on the waiting list for three different care facilities. I didn’t realize there were so many older people, but I suppose it’s because people are living longer.

I always told my mom that I would stay with her until I couldn’t take care of anymore, and I’m afraid we’re there. She can’t do a lot for herself and I’m sure she will be much better off, getting the care she needs, in a care center.

It’s horrible watching your parents get old; not being able to do the things they used to, depressed because they can’t remember the things they did.  And to experience that close-up and personal, well, it’s quite an awakening. I’ve had to adjust my attitude more than a few times. My patience has been tested to the limit, and it’s all I can do to keep it all together.

But it’s not just the taking-care-of-her part, it’s all the emotions that come with it. The family unit is being tested, and with so many different personalities, everyone wanting to be heard and in control, it’s sometimes hard to tolerate. And I’m right in the middle of it all.

Some days I just want to run away.  But I won’t. I know God has put me here to take care of my mom. The things I am learning about myself and my mom are astounding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I get to spend quality time with one of the most amazing people I know.

Our relationship has changed over the years. There was a time when I was angry with her and resentful, but that has long-since been resolved. I know it’s because of the time I have spent with her. I’ve gotten to know her not as my mom, but as a person, and I have seen a side of her most people never will.

I didn’t get a chance to tell my dad how much he meant to me before he died, but I can tell my mom. Or at least show her; I do that by being here for her.

We all think we have time – time to tell people how we feel, heal broken relationships, and do all the things we want to – until we don’t anymore. I’m just grateful I have the insight to realize that.





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Being human

My dad taught me a lot of things. He taught me the Golden Rule; he taught me not to litter; and he taught me to be kind to others (because you have no idea what they might be going through).

The Meis clan, around 1940. (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Dad is on the far left (he's about 15)

The Meis clan, around 1940. (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Dad is on the far left (he’s about 15)

And though he passed away 6 years ago, he recently bestowed upon me another valuable lesson; he taught me that no one is perfect.

That sounds kind of silly because I should have known that by now. I’ve heard it countless times throughout my life. I just didn’t think it applied to everyone.

Let me say that again: No one is perfect.

Some people think they are. And some, like me, strive to be. And Christians will tell you that the last perfect person died on the cross. But I wonder if Jesus was even perfect. He was a man, after all.

I read a passage last night that put it in better perspective.

“We are here to learn. We came from perfection. But we are not perfection. The purpose of life is to experience every aspect of it; the messy, the painful, the joyful, the frustrating, the disappointments, and glory. All of it.”

We all suffer from the same disease. It’s called “Being Human.”

We hate making mistakes because it is painful. When we make a mistake, many of us are shamed because we did not do it right the first time. But if we did, what would be the point of life?

My dad was far from perfect, and to be honest, I never really thought much about it. But in my heart, I thought he should be. He was my dad, after all. He was my hero.

I put him on a pedestal and when he fell off, I condemned him for it. But that wasn’t his fault. It was mine for ever putting him there in the first place.

I think everyone goes through that with their parents. If we are lucky, we see that they are like everyone else. They make mistakes. They don’t always do what we think they should do. And though they might make us angry or frustrated or sad, we need to find a way to forgive them.

There is another thing my dad taught me: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

But how can you forgive, when you don’t always know that’s the problem?





Parent’s role is becoming even more challenging

I have taken on the duty of covering the Marion School Board meetings, which are held twice a month.

My first meeting went pretty much what I expected, similar to the Hiawatha council meetings that I attend regularly.

I found it extremely interesting, mostly because I’m a mother and grandmother, and anything eduction-related interests me.  I also attended college in the ’90s to become an elementary education teacher, and though I didn’t follow through, I have maintained a high respect for all teachers.

During the school board meeting, a mother of two Emerson Elementary students asked to address the board. She stated that she was concerned about the safety in Marion schools because of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. and suggested that a guard be posted in every school.

It made me think about how close to home the issue had become, and how it was affecting all of us, a community nearly 1,000 mile away.

As I listened to the news report, I was shocked to hear that the shooter’s mother knew he was mentally ill, but taught him how to shoot guns, anyway.

Maybe she didn’t want to admit that her son might be capable of such a horrendous act, but she should have had some idea. She was his mother, after all.

Our society is changing and so is role of a parent. Our children are exposed to many things that can have a negative affect on the way they think and behave.

The influence of violent video games, movies, television, the Internet, and social media could be changing our children’s judgement without us even being aware of it.

Some parent think it’s OK that their young children have total access to their computer and let them play violent video games that are much too sophisticated for them. They let them watch television shows and movies that could be impact the choices they make.

Some kids have their own cell phones by the time they’re 7, and many spend much of their time texting instead of talking to their parents.

Life is busy. There are more things to occupy our time and we can’t seem to find the time to spend with our children. But we have to.

Education begins at home. Teaching children what is right and what is wrong is a parent’s responsibility. Knowing who they are, what they think, who their friends are, is more important today than ever before.

So turn off the computer, iPads, television, and cell phones. Take your children to the park, to the lake, or on a bike ride. Spend time with your children, learn who they are, and start relating to them. Be the positive influence that our society desperately needs.

We can’t stop the changes that are occurring to our society, but we can adjust the way we raise our children to reflect those changes in a positive way.

This may not be the solution to the problem, but maybe it’s a start. And besides, it’s just good parenting.