Sometimes in life we have the opportunity to have a second chance at something when we least expect it. For some people it may be in wealth, travel, and life do-overs. Or, by far the most meaningful and fulfilling, getting a second chance at relationships.
The past four years my husband has devoted a lot of his spare time to caring for his disabled father since he first moved to Mississippi and then to Louisiana. Big Eric (as the family called him) and little Eric (my husband) did not have a close relationship until unfortunately, the roles reversed. Big Eric suffered from a neurodegenerative brain disease called Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Overtime, the nerve cells that control walking, balance, mobility, vision, speech, and swallowing degenerate and it begins to rob the person of voluntary movements.
About two and a half years ago, as Big Eric’s condition progressed, the frequency of visits to his father in Mississippi (an hr away from our house) increased. At first, I was a little resentful because of the decrease of free time we had as a family. To understand this, you must know that Eric commutes an hr to and from work, and I worked some nights and weekends; in addition, I was home all the time with a 6 month old and a 2 year old.
I wish I could tell you that ‘one day’ I woke up enlightened, but I didn’t. Eventually, I asked myself: If I was terminally ill; how would I want to live? Who would I want near me? Family. It was then when a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and accepted that the time my husband was spending with his father was not only precious, but also limited. This was his opportunity to grow a relationship that was absent for so many years, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances.
The past year has been specially difficult for us. As the sole caregiver for his father; my husband’s responsibilities and time commitments increased when Big Eric’s condition worsened. I’m not talking about a weekly visit to the nursing home to read the newspaper or watch a football game; I am referring to spoon feeding his father dinner for over an hour four and five nights a week. The nights he didn’t go, even my kids would ask: “Why isn’t daddy taking care of paw paw Eric?” Other nights, as my husband was mid commute home, I would feel myself slump as I would encourage him to go see his father, regardless of how tired he may be. Selfishly, I wanted him home early… and so did the kids. However, I had to live up to what I continually reminded our children the many nights I put them to bed before my Eric would get home: “God says we must honor our parents. That is what daddy is doing by taking care of Paw Paw Eric” (Matthew 15:4, Exodus 20:12, Deu 5:16).
Sofia has prayed many times for paw paw Eric to not be sick anymore, for God to visit him and make him better, and even for God to build him a house in heaven for when he goes up there because he doesn’t have a house here. It’s amazing at the simplicity of her prayers, yet how meaningful they were. I am tearing up just trying to finish this post. There is so much I want to say…
This past week Big Eric passed away. We are grateful to all our friends and family who have called, sent condolences, and even brought food over. Every so often, I ask my husband how he is doing… and he reminds me every time that he “has done all he could for his father and is grateful at the second chance go get to know him. He is at peace.”
I am forever grateful to my father in law for bringing the best out of my husband; for helping him grow as a person and as a father to our children. As a wife, I am reassured that I married an extraordinary person; someone committed that won’t back out when life gets hard. I have learned to be encouraging and supportive, specially during difficult times.
Thank you Big Eric for coming back into your Little Eric’s life.
Big Eric and Little Eric (around age 6)