I had a house once – a 2-bedroom bungalow nestled just outside uptown Charlotte with towering trees in a quiet neighborhood. I loved living there and loved that I could do whatever I wanted with that 1940’s house. With an arched doorway framing hardwood floors, I painted the living room a deep cranberry red with sand mixed into the paint to give the walls texture and hung my favorite pictures above the fireplace. I chose a calming Martha Stewart green color for my bedroom and loved how the morning sunlight cast a dappled shadow on the floor. I loved to cook in my kitchen, baking bread for neighbors or dinner for friends. It was my home, a place I had hoped to lay down some roots.
I had finally gotten to the place in my career where I was making a living solely from my writing. But as an associate editor for a weekly newspaper, I was still on a tight budget, so my home was minimally but lovingly furnished.
There was something so liberating about having my own small corner of earth. I could let my creative juices run wild and then change it all up again the very next week if I chose. It wasn’t just a place to eat and sleep. It was an open canvas and I alone held the brush and all the paint.
Soon my career took me to Washington D.C. and eventually, I parted ways with my small corner of earth. After nine years of renting, I relocated back to Georgia and moved in with my parents to provide care for my Dad. Back to the same house my parents built and laid down their roots in 1982.
I gave away some furniture and stored my stuff in their garage. This was not my house. This was their house. This was the house I dreamed of leaving as a teenager and making my own mark in the world. And now I’m back.
When a caregiver invites their loved one to move in with them, you give them their own space and do whatever it takes to make them feel at home. But when a caregiver moves back in with their parent to provide care, it is virtually impossible to escape the resounding truth that you’ve put your life on hold.
I do not feel like I am living my life. I feel as if I’m living someone else’s life. But it isn’t the life I wanted to live. I am not living on my own small corner of earth anymore. I don’t really have a blank canvas and someone snatched away my brush and paint. But only temporarily.
I know that one day, I will move out of my parents’ house…again, and once again live in an atmosphere of my own making. I’ll pick up my brush and paint and let my creative juices flow as fast and as furious as they choose.
I’ve learned that if love is about anything, it’s about sacrifice. And at this point in my parents’ lives, the best thing for them means I give up my ability to have a small corner of earth for now and choose to live in theirs. If I must choose between having my own house or giving my parents the best quality of life, there is no comparison. Love wins every time. Life is all about seasons and this just happens to be my season for taking care of them. They brought me into this world and took care of me as a child and now I get to return the favor and put into practice what they taught me. And if I don’t know how to truly love someone, then I could have the most beautifully decorated house in town, but it would never be a home.
For now, I am content to binge watch HGTV shows and load up my Pinterest boards with ideas. And when I do move into my own place, it will mark the end of one season and the beginning of another. In the meantime, I am choosing to enjoy this one. After all, I can have my own place anytime. I can’t say the same about my parents.