“It takes a village.” Often when we hear that term, we assume that it is about children. As a kid I heard it often, spoken about some wayward child in our neighborhood. Every parent in our neighborhood could lay “hands” on you, so to speak. Our neighborhood, which consisted of 4 blocks all connected in a square, meant all our families knew one another. In other words, my friends’ mother was given permission to spank me or sit me in a corner, if I got out of line or was, “acting too old for my britches.”
Yet, the Coronavirus has ushered in a new village. This new village is not just for the care of children, who now find home as neighborhood, school, and community, but an era of providing for aging parents and neighbors, long before they are ready, need or require at home caregiving.
The virus has limited choices for those who thought their “golden years” might be about downsizing or moving into senior communities or even assisted living. With those choices limited and the thought of having your parent or parents in a place where their age puts them in the vulnerable population category, families are having these conversations sooner rather than later.
The pandemic has forced families to rethink strategy when a loved one becomes ill or is no longer able to live alone. The virus has changed our world, without our permission.
Many families have been thrust into roles they were unprepared for. Stunned by their circumstances and shocked by this change – the phrase “head of household” has taken on a whole new meaning.
If you have more than one sibling, this leadership role of stepping in, now falls to one sibling. Your siblings will look to you for guidance. You suddenly become the family expert on all thing’s mom or dad. Your siblings look to you to understand your parent’s finances, and their medical needs.
But what about the elders in our community who do not have that circle of support? Or whose children live hundreds of miles away?
As a kid growing up, our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Curtis had long lost her husband and her children had relocated to the west coast. I can remember my parents looking in on Mrs. Curtis daily. My mother and the other women in the neighborhood daily fixed her meals.
You see, Mrs. Curtis was adamant about not leaving the home in which she raised her children and lived life with her husband. My dad promised her son that he and my mom would take care of Mrs. Curtis, as if she were their own mother. As kids we checked on Mrs. Curtis, mowed her lawn, carried in her mail, helped her down the stairs, so she could go with my mother to the grocery store.
When it came time that Mrs. Curtis could no longer go up and down stairs, my parents moved her bedroom down to her living room. My dad helped her son put in security systems as our neighborhood begin to lose that communal neighbor feel, and the children that had grown up around her begin to go off to college and other families moved in – who didn’t know Mrs. Curtis as the lifeblood of our neighborhood.
Mrs. Curtis died while I was away at college and my dad helped her son close out her house. My parents considered buying her home, just to keep it and the memories in the village. But in the end, they too realized that they were aging, and their children would be gone and perhaps there would be families and kids in the neighborhood who would do for them – what they had done for Mrs. Curtis.
Caregiving is not a new thing in our communities – its just a new normal, that has taken us back to basics. Back to generational living and caring for our loved ones at home. Perhaps the challenges we are facing is helping to bring us back to caring for communities and each other.
As we get back to normal in balancing our responsibilities, small things will and can make a big difference. Today why not get to know the Mrs. Curtis’ in your own neighborhood. Because it really does “take a village.”
“And That’s A Brilliant Glimpse of Insight!”