My social media timelines were bursting with mom photos, mom tributes last Sunday. It felt wonderful going through each and like-clicking. Moms of all shapes and sizes I saw there. Some mothers remarkably resemble their sons. Others were so different that you'd think "he must have gotten his looks from his dad." Some moms looked so young they looked like siblings beside their children.
Last Sunday, it turns out, is also the Feast of the Lady of the Abandoned. The elderly home nearby celebrates the feast, for the home was named after her. The irony is that this home houses elderly women, mostly mothers who have been left by their families to fend for themselves. I wonder how their children feel when Mothers' Day comes around.
But who am I to judge? I have been very lucky to have a mother, actually parents, who are so sweet and lovable. They are so easy to take care of. And up to now, they would rather not be a burden to any of us, their children. But I also know of the strained relationships some of my friends have with their mothers.
One girl friend shares her pain as she take care of a 'difficult' mother - one who always complains, never grateful, very demanding. Luckily, her mom does not stay with her but with her brother and his family. That family is being stressed out by her presence. My girl friend, much as she wants to take care of her mom, fears letting her inside her home. They might kill each other, she says in jest.
Is it a child's responsibility to take care of his or her folks? Should parents demand that of their children?
I don't think so. Parents should not be raising children as insurance for their old age. They have a responsibility to rear their children properly, to become fully functioning, well-adjusted adults who might eventually have their own families. Then those adults become parents themselves. And the cycle moves forward, ever forward.
What becomes of parents when they become empty nesters? In a perfect world, the society and its infrastructure are designed to allow the elderly to live with dignity independently. They have access to health care, recreation, entertainment until the very end. Senior citizens are supposed to ensure that they have provided for this retirement during their productive years.
But it is not a perfect world. Some elderly parents can't even retire as their families continue to depend on them. And for those who have provided for themselves, infrastructure is still not senior-citizen friendly. What happens to them?
Could it be that this is the role for those children who remain single or without children to take care of? I can't help but sometimes feel that this is my special role as the gay son, the one without a family and kids to support. It is my unique privilege to be able to honor and serve my parents within the context of an imperfect society that cannot allow them to be independent.
I call it a privilege because as I honor them through serving them in their twilight years, I obey a commandment, the only one among the Ten, that comes with a promise of a blessed long life.
Perhaps in His wisdom, though God designed it that children do not have the responsibility to care for their parents, but they would be rewarded for doing so.
I see many of my gay friends, especially on social media, taking on that role. Even as they pursue their careers, even as they have their boyfriends, they put their parents as top priority. May God continue to bless them as they take on this privileged role. And when it sometimes feel like a burden, may He lighten their load so they continue to honor and serve their parents in the best manner possible.
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