What Gives? The Acrobats of Caregiving


Since retiring almost a year ago, I have cautiously added one commitment after another to my daily routine.

My first priority has been to assist in caring for my daughter’s children. I had been attending Mass most mornings and a Bible study group on Tuesday evenings. I later added an hour of exercise about four times weekly, twice weekly meetings with an Aunt to assist with bills and household tasks, yard duty at my grandson’s school on Wednesdays, a book group on Thursday evenings and Cub Scouts every other Monday. While momentum was in my favor, I was also reading a book or two most weeks.

A return to blogging after several years away was the most recent addition to my list of commitments.

I was like the acrobat we used to see on the Ed Sullivan Show. First one, then two and finally five plates spinning on the tops of willowy poles.  Running from pole to pole, all my plates were in full spin.

That is until a couple of unforeseen events occurred.

Just days after returning to work on a part time basis, we came to the conclusion that we needed to move into a larger home that we could share with our daughter and three grandchildren. This meant buying a house, moving out of ours and getting our daughter’s house ready to put on the market. Those two factors added about 30 to 50 hours to my routine.

So what happens when you have a carefully planned, well ordered life that is subjected to sudden change? Some thing has to give. But what?

Rule number one for the acrobat; the plates have to come down intentionally while others are kept in spin. No crashing allowed.

Reading, writing, and exercise were the first to give. Why? Not because they aren’t important, but because they were the things done on “found” time and had the least impact on others. Other things had to give a little to accommodate my new work schedule and juggling two moves and three houses. I missed a number of morning Masses due my busier schedule (Or sometimes I was too tired to get out of the house at 6:30 in the morning).

I missed several meetings of my Thursday night book group because they occurred on moving days.

On some days, new commitments themselves had to give. I missed a couple of days of work to complete the move. (Since I set my own hours, not much of a hardship). Sometimes moving had to give. For example, on the weekend we moved our daughter and grandchildren from their house to our new home, there were a couple of major Cub Scout activities scheduled as well. It was difficult to walk away from the moving, cleaning and unpacking, but it was good to let it go for a few hours. My grandson and I took a wonderful hike in the foothills that Saturday and our whole family enjoyed a picnic with his pack that Sunday. The moved still progressed and we all benefitted from the rest, recreation and fellowship that the events offered.

What didn’t give? Well, the grandkids still needed to get to school and various lessons. School Yard duty couldn’t give because the school depended on having supervision. There were a couple of other things that couldn’t give because of what they give in return.

Tuesday Bible study didn’t give because the group serves as the anchor for our lives as Catholics. Taking ninety minutes each week to read scripture and discuss it serves as an oasis in our busy week. We often walk in exhausted and walk out with a renewed sense of energy.

Another thing that didn’t give was the Rosary. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, since praying the Rosary daily is a habit I acquired only recently and I don’t recall ever making a conscious commitment to do so. With my schedule growing ever more hectic, I found creative ways to work the Rosary into my daily routine. (Even when there was no routine). In addition to using a traditional rosary, I used the Hail Mary iPhone app, I also used  Robert Kochis’ recorded version of the Rosary on my phone, iPod and even on a Spotify play list.

Ideally, I would like to say the Rosary in a quiet time and place, but when time doesn’t permit, I have learned to be creative. I have integrated the Rosary into a cross-town drive, a long walk, I have even done the Rosary while fixing a broken sprinkler.

So what do I get out of saying the Rosary? Even under less than ideal conditions, a daily reflection on the mysteries of the Rosary keeps me connected to the Gospels, reciting the prayers gives me a daily connection to the Church’s tradition. It keeps my focused on my faith.

Studying scripture with others and reciting the Rosary  have helped keep me centered while coping with a whirlwind of change. They have been well worth the time. They are the real answer to the question; What gives?

Copyright 2012 Kirk Whitney


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