How to Organically Enter into Life with a Caregiving Family
How to organically enter into life with a caregiving family has been on my mind since September when my dear Aunt Donna died. Since then memories of how she, her husband Jim, and their four children embraced our family after my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1959 have simultaneously caused and comforted my grief for the woman who loved our family well.
In honor of Aunt Donna, who taught me how to organically enter into life with a caregiving family, I’m sharing some of the ways she did so and changed our lives for the better.
Daycare: Donna watched her first child and my brother, both one-year-olds, and four-year-old me while Mom taught school. This was a godsend for Mom as she taught school while attending night classes, cared for Dad, and took my older sister to first grade. My aunt eased Mom’s burdens and made me and my brother feel secure and loved.
Substitute Teacher: Aunt Donna substitute taught in the elementary building I attended. The sight of her in the hall and sometimes in my classroom always rendered me speechless. I couldn’t reconcile her presence at school. She never pushed me to acknowledge our family bond. Instead she waved or winked and treated me like everyone else. This simple act made me feel safe.
Sunday Afternoon Visits: Donna, Jim, and their kids came over a couple Sunday afternoons a month. The adults played cards. The kids played together. At some point Mom and Donna gave each kid an apple and sent us to the living room to watch The Wonderful World of Disney. Because Sunday visits to their home, with steps and small bathroom Dad couldn’t negotiate, were out of the question, they made themselves accessible to us instead.
Jolene Philo is the author of several books for the caregiving community. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. Sharing Love Abundantly With Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, was released in August of 2019 and is available at local bookstores, their bookstore website, and Amazon. See Jane Sing!, the second book in the West River cozy mystery series, which features characters affected by disability, will be released in November of 2022.
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