Monday, October 11, 2010

Witness to Sacrifice

L.G.C. Smith

Six months ago, my father confessed he had gotten used to his Giant House in Austin. He was starting to like it, despite its massive upstairs full of big bedrooms, walk-in closets, two full baths, and a 20’x30’ playroom, plus its lack of proximity to a good golf course. After four years of complaining about the house and how he and my mom should be downsizing, blahblahblah, he was content.


My parents bought the Giant House to be around the corner from my brother and his family. They had lived forty-five minutes away in a retirement community with two golf courses and only one guest bedroom, when my brother’s two-year-old was diagnosed with autism. My dad continued to enjoy a lot of golf, but my mom spent a lot of time on the road going back and forth to help out. There was no place for her to have her own space there, so she was either on the road late, or trying to fit in where there wasn’t room. She was nearly seventy and had just had a hip replacement. It was a bit much.


Inevitably, there was talk of Mom and Dad moving closer. My dad didn’t want to. My mom insisted. My sister-in-law noticed the Giant House around the corner For Sale. A few months later, I was in Austin visiting outlet malls to help furnish guest rooms.


My parents have been moving for other people for a while now. My dad retired early, so when my folks were in their mid-fifties, they moved from Northern California to Rapid City, South Dakota to help my grandparents, who were then in their late-eighties. My dad said it would be for five years. It was eight before the winters beat them back to California.



My parents at Bear Butte, Sturgis, SD, probably in 1957


For the next five years they lived in Sonoma County. My sisters and I were thrilled. We had a bolt hole in the beautiful wine country a scant hundred miles away, and we made good use of it. Then my brother got married. Anticipating long-awaited grandchildren, my parents began to think about moving to Texas for at least part of the year.


They sold their house in California, bought that first house near Austin, and made plans to build a granny unit onto my sister’s house so they could spend summers in a decent climate with easy access to couple of Major League baseball teams. A few years later they moved into the Giant House, my dad kicking and screaming. But he did it. Because my mom and my brother asked him to.


Five months ago, the one-story house next to the Giant House went up for sale. My brother decided he wanted my parents to buy it and live there, while he would buy the Giant House and move his family in there. Instead of being 300 steps away, they would be next door. With his third child about to be born, his family could use more space. A single-story house would be better for my mom with her arthritis and joint issues.


But my parents said no. They didn’t even consider it. The costs. The disruption. NO.


The closing is set for next week, and the move will probably happen in February or March. My parents didn’t want to do it, but my brother asked. And asked. And asked. Anyone with an autistic child knows the worry, stress and extra work involved. My parents don’t really get why my brother wants them smack next door, but he does. Badly. They bitched and moaned a lot, but they did it.


In this case, the complaining doesn’t make it any less of a sacrifice. The fact that it’s not super dramatic doesn’t make it less of a sacrifice. The fact that no blood has been shed (yet) doesn’t make it less of a sacrifice.


I see you, Mom and Dad. I see the love that moves you. I’m humbled by your example, and so very, very proud that you’re my parents.

10 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

This is a beautiful example of "what family does" - you hear that phrase now and then - maybe it's a midwestern thing - usually when someone does something big, but quietly...out of love and loyalty and a sense of commitment to something bigger than oneself. your family's been a great example of that.

Lisa Hughey said...

You are lucky to have parents who support all of you so beautifully. I hope the move turns out to be great for everyone. :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

What a beautiful ode to your parents! I love that this is your example of sacrifice, that everyday, simple, quiet sacrifice. Beautiful.

Rachael Herron said...

Awwwwwww. And that's where you come from. I see that. xoxo

HardBoiledMysti said...

What fabulous parents you have, inspiring! Thank you for sharing this. We CAN warm the world up, one story at a time ;)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Thank you all. My parents would be the first to tell anyone that they made plenty of mistakes with us when we were kids, but I find such hope and grace in the way they paid attention to that and learned from the mistakes. They've spent their lives learning to love better. A more worthy goal I cannot imagine.

Sophie, thanks. :)

Lisa, I know my parents will be fine in the new house. The floor plan is almost exactly like their downstairs in the Giant House. No stairs will be a boon for my mom.

Juliet, one think about my parents and this particular sacrifice -- they aren't quiet about it. Lots of fussing on this one. :)

Rachael, my mom grew up on a ranch six miles east of Bear Butte.

Mysti, you're so right. We can not only warm the world (in a good way, not a climate change way) with our stories. We can CHANGE the world. Love as a practice of freedom, and all that jazz.

Moonsanity said...

They are amazing, and I know change is hard for everyone, let alone when someone is older and doesn't want to make changes again. They will make such a huge difference in their grandchildren's lives living next door. If they are THAT willing to sacrifice and move like that then they will be a loving, wonderful influence on the kids too:) That is so cool.

Adrienne Miller said...

I LOVE this story about your parents. But, the part that really sticks with me is the bit about doing all this for your family, while still saying they're going to come out every summer to watch baseball. That's great. I'll do anything, but I won't lose myself in the process. It's a nice balance.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Moonsanity and Adrienne, wise words from both of you. Adrienne, it's my dad who won't sacrifice baseball -- for my Mom, the grandchild she has here is the big draw.

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