mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We can never repay the debt we owe our parents. So how hard should we try?

I'm up in NJ for Christmas, spending a few days with the parents. Since I work for a college, every year I have the same dilemma - how much time should I spend there? The paradox is that as the reasons for me to want to spend more time in Maryland grow, so do the reasons that I should spend more time with the parents. Several years ago, when I was living in a rented room, spending most of the break with the parents wasn't a big deal. Now, though, I own a house and a cat and have more roots in MD than when I first moved there. But now, my parents are also older and have health problems - my dad has MS, my mom has bad arthritis. They struggle to do basic tasks, and could really use the extra help. And I feel like a horrible person for not staying around to give it to them - they seem so greatful for the smallest thing. I also am the son who went away - my brother lives close by, about 20 minutes away, so he frequently comes over to do things like mow the lawn, shovel snow, ect. I don't, because I live 4 hours way, so I feel bad that I'm not doing as much.

Yesterday, I drove my mom to 7:30AM Christmas morning mass. As I stepped out of my truck, I realized that there was a bunch of black ice where I had parked - snow had melted, started to run to a drain, and froze. So I walked around and held my mom's hand as she got out of the truck. It was a reversal of roles - the child holding the parent's hand. But in the short amount of time I'm up here, I've found myself doing a lot of things that used to be done for me - cooking, driving, mopping the floors, running errands. It's weird and depressing to be doing stuff for your parents.

And I find myself conflicted about how much I should be doing - sometimes I think that since my parents sacrificed so much to raise me, I owe them the same - that I should sell my house and quit my job and move back in with them. Other times, I think that I don't really HAVE to do anything for them, so anything I do is, well, better than nothing. Reality lies somewhere between these two extremes, of course - but the question is, closer to which?

I don't have a girlfriend or wife or kids or any other obligations, so I have more time and fewer excuses not to help them out. Still, I want those things, and spending every waking free hour driving to and from NJ isn't going to help me get them (although I may be beyond help).

I'm thinking that I'll probably end up leaving NJ sometime in the next few days, which will give me basically 5 full days with them, plus 2 partial days spent traveling, and 4 days in MD to myself to relax/do stuff around the house/play with the cat/run errands/hang out with friends. I'm not sure if this is the "right" amount - if I'm a sinner, a saint, or just a typical son.


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