Five years ago, my wife and I sat down with my mother and my sister to discuss the future. We had experienced a string of difficult years marked by unfulfilling holidays and a growing concern that my mom and sister could remain independent.
After my dad died back in 2008, my mom became the head of her household. She is a brave, strong, intelligent woman who carried the burden as far as she could, but the writing was on the wall that a change was coming, and my wife and I believed we had a good idea to help her take pre-emptive actions so that when the time came, the inevitable change was under her own terms and would be for the better for both her and my sister.
To clarify, to those who are unaware, my older sister is a very special, beautiful soul who has challenges that she bravely faces every day of her life just to tackle a lot of the things the rest of us take for granted. I am immensely proud of her for how she handles the raw deals life has dealt her with far more grace and patience than I think I or most others could muster, in her shoes. Due to her circumstances, she lived at home with my mom and dad, and they maintained the same familial arrangement with her as they had since she was little.
Her needs are manageable, and a true honor to meet, but my mom had stood up and held the two of them aloft on their own for as long as she could, and my wife and I knew it. In discussing the issues with both her and my sister, we quickly came to a consensus: we needed to take matters into our own hands, which meant rolling up our sleeves, tightening our belts, and having faith in one another.
So, we devised a master plan, selling ourselves on the idea that by dissolving both of our households and merging them together with a fresh start in a new, larger home, my mother’s financial burdens could be mitigated pretty much entirely and she would be able to relax a bit and enjoy her winter years with peace of mind, knowing that everything could be managed better together than it might have been, apart. This meant some sacrifices had to be made, of course. My wife and I sold our home and moved into a small rental unit for a while, using the proceeds of our home’s sale as a big down-payment on our new home.
It also meant a lot of work needed to be done. They helped me as much as they could, my wife, mom, and sister, but I sincerely worked harder in that year than I had ever before in my life to make repairs in preparation for getting our homes sold. There were times when I was truly out of my depth, when I could have used just one more pair of hands in the mix to help me turn the tide, and in those times when I felt lost and underequipped to deal with all the work laid out before me, I somehow found the strength and resolve to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and get it done.
I needed help, and I truly believe my dad lent me whatever strength I was missing. He would have been very proud of me, even if at the time I wasn't able to realize it. I was doing my best to take care of his wife and daughter, to ensure they would not have to face one more winter on their own, and I have zero regrets about how I handled myself during that time.
We made some decisions to ensure that the expenses we would face in the new house would not require a single dime from the sale of my mother’s house, thereby allowing her to use that money to pay off old debts and provide her with a comfortable nest-egg. My wife and I sacrificed a bit of our privacy as a married couple, and my mom and sister had grown accustomed to living their lives with just the two of them in one house, so there would be some growing pains, for sure. However, we all took on those challenges together, and as a result, just a few days ago, we celebrated our fourth anniversary in our new home, together.
Above the door leading into our home, before we even officially moved in, I had a phrase stenciled to signify that this home was dedicated to our collective, peaceful futures. It reads, “Leave Your Troubles At The Door.”
This was a fresh start for the four of us. We had endured a few very disheartening years after my dad passed away, and as a family we had some lingering doubts about how to let go of old, untenable conditions to allow new traditions and new joys to bloom and blossom in their place. Christmas was never going to be ‘the same’ without dad, but they needn’t be the depressing, disheartening, sometimes needlessly chaotic routines that they became in his absence.
We could make Christmas great, again, by embracing the blessings in our lives and… well… by leaving our troubles at the door.
Thanksgivings, too, had been bitterly unrewarding after my dad passed on, but the four of us were able to reclaim and rebuild what that holiday represented to us, and the decisions we made together have made each Thanksgiving since we moved in here better than the last, to a certain degree.
One year, we were blessed enough to host a Thanksgiving in which my wife’s dad was able to attend. It was an honor for me to have him in our house, sitting at our table, smiling and laughing with all of us as he shared our appreciation and enthusiasm for the lives we had made for ourselves, here.
My wife’s dad loved the words we had stenciled over our door. He ran his household with a similar mindset, welcoming love and happiness, inviting warmth and joy, while keeping at bay the worries and frustrations of the world outside his door.
He was proud of all that his daughter had achieved, and it humbled me, as her husband and his son-in-law, to have him choose to spend his Thanksgiving up here in our house rather than where he had every other Thankgiving since I had known him, his own home.
It meant a lot to both of us, and it still does, especially since we lost him, too. As I said my prayers on Thanksgiving night, before I went to sleep, I asked God to bless my dad and my wife’s, and to look over all of both men’s families.
I just learned that my brother-in-law got a great new job after a long, exhaustive search. When I pray before I sleep, tonight, I will be adding that to my list of things I am grateful for, and thanking our father-in-law in heaven for watching over us.