Recently I’ve started to wonder what this is all about when we are instructed in The Bible ‘to honour thy father and thy mother’. While I’m not sure that I’m going to reach a definitive answer, I am realising that I get a clearer impression of what it means as I age, and as my parents age.The place I learnt this instruction from as The Ten Commandments. They were one of the first things I learnt at Sunday School as a child, and I remember having to be able to recite them. I even at a silver charm bracelet which had 10 charms representing each commandment (in a shortened form). What I learnt as a child included the reason why I should do this. The commandment in Exodus 20: 12 says:
“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your
God is giving you.”
Actually even when I looked at the whole commandment I still never really knew what it meant. I assumed I would die young if I didn’t honour my parents, but then I was never sure what honouring meant anyway.
The Free Dictionary defines the verb honour (or honor) as:
Even from there, it’s not very clear exactly what is meant.
My mother will be 85 in a few weeks, and my father died suddenly, at the age of 76, in April 2011. A number of things since his death and even in the couple of years before Dad died have led me to realise that we adult children have a responsibility for our elderly parents. I guess the issue for me is how does that apply to me and my family. That time appears to have arrived.
Early this year (before I started blogging) I published an article about my father’s death and how that related to the Christchurch Earthquakes of 2010/11. A member of my family was very upset with what I wrote, and said I had dishonoured both my father’s name and our family name.
I was pretty upset by that accusation and had to do some serious soul-searching. Even though I wasn’t totally sure what was meant by the word ‘dishonour’, I was mortified at the thought that I might have done this. My father was very special to me, and I would never have wanted to put something bad on his name.
Eventually I decided that what really mattered was what my mother felt about what I had written. Actually she was happy with what I wrote, and so I concluded that while I would have liked to, it’s just not possible to please all the people all the time. As long as my mother was at peace about what I wrote, and she felt that Dad would have been okay with it, then I wasn’t going to lose more sleep.
I don’t generally write a lot about my mother in my blog for a number of reasons. Firstly some people who may follow my blog are friends/family/people who know her personally. It’s simply not fair on her for me to be saying all kinds of things about her in that case. She is also a very private and reserved woman. If she wouldn’t be saying these things, then I don’t feel it’s my place to say them either.
And finally Mum and I have never shared a close relationship. Anything but. Our relationship has always been strained, for as long as I can remember. We are simply two very different people, although my brother reminded me recently that we have some similarities (which I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know about). I guess that’s family for you.
All that said, she is my mother, she is ageing, she is now widowed and alone, and I am the family member who is physically closest (just five minutes down the road) and the one who has the time and perhaps inclination. That has been the case now for the past 10 years so we have already been through a lot.
At the moment my mother needs support from me and it looks like that is going to increase significantly in the coming months ( contact me directly if you need that explained).
I don’t have a problem providing the support she needs because to me, that is what honouring her is about. It’s also about honouring what my father would have wanted me to do, and perhaps because I was closer to him, that is the stronger thought right now.
My therapist and I fall apart at this point because he considers that I’m trying to replace my father. I’m trying to be a husband for my mother. I don’t agree. I simply see a woman who raised me, had a husband for 53 years, and now finds herself alone and with failing health.
Dare I say it, I expect it will all go down hill from here in terms of her ability to maintain her independence and mobility. Quite frankly, it puts me off old age. I see what she faces and I see what some of her friends and relatives face, and I’m inclined to think I’m not interested in being old. Perhaps I’m not meant to say that, but hey, I’ve said it. I’m sure I’m not the only one with elderly parents who is thinking the same.
What I have yet to work out is how I honour my mother (and my father), and provide the support she needs while still looking after my own physical health and needs. I suspect that is actually going to be the biggest battle. The past few days have not been easy because I haven’t been well, but Mum needed me. But it was manageable and we have got through.
I’m also not sure how I protect my mental health through this, although I am fortunate to have a couple of close supports who are simply wonderful. It’s difficult though, because our relationship has always been rocky and often my mental health has suffered. I can’t afford for that to happen. If I don’t maintain my own health, then I won’t be able to be there for her.
I’m wondering though, what do you think honouring your parents means? And how do you do that, if it’s at all possible, when your parents have caused you harm in the past? If honouring your parents isn’t important to you, how do you view your role in their old age?
“I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.”
― Marilyn Monroe
- My Journey Through Grief (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Perspective (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Honour Thy Mother and Father (achievingworldpeacenow.wordpress.com)
- How to survive your fucked up family (rebelyouthnz.wordpress.com)
- Honor thy mother and father, even when dementia has been diagnosed (dealingwithdementia.wordpress.com)