My maternal grandmother, who we called Nana, was a caregiver. At a young age, she moved back home to care for her mother who was dying of cancer. During my lifetime, I vividly remember her caring for my grandfather who was in the VA hospital with a stroke. Every day for ten years, she sat by his side, though he was bed-ridden and couldn't even talk. A few years after he passed, her older sister moved into an assisted living apartment and then a nursing home. Again, Nana was the one who cared for her sister overseeing her health care and finances for the rest of her life. I never will forget how selfless she was and how it was never a question or choice; just her duty to care for her loved ones.
The compassion for her loved ones never had to be requested; she never had to be asked to act. The same desire to help and care for others has become apparent in my daughter, Hadley. For instance, she always looks after her little cousins (though sometimes verging on the edge of bossiness!) and even instructs my sister, mom or whomever is around how to properly feed her baby cousin or change diapers. More endearing and unexpected, is how she has taken to care for me.
A few weeks ago, we all traveled to Disney World. It was Hadley and my wife's first visit there and the weather, the theme parks and fun could not have been better. Since it was so sunny during that week, we of course took our sun screen. This is where mom Hadley appeared. She had to put mine on me even if I had already applied it. She'd say, "I think you missed a place."
She also has taken to make sure I'm properly caring for myself in my daily routines. One morning, I was sitting on my bed after showering and about to pull on a shirt when suddenly, Hadley ran and got a little hand towel returning to dry off my back. I think it was the same day that she decided she would begin brushing my hair. She had me sit still, instructing me not to move and after she had brushed it, she showed me how to sleep so I wouldn't mess it up-face down on my pillow. I was also strictly instructed to wake up at the same time the next morning so she could brush my hair again.
Perhaps the sweetest example of how this desire to help and care for me happened last week. My cup of water had slipped out of my hand and spilled. She immediately wanted to help clean it up. We quickly sopped up the water and she then asked, "Where's your cup?" I held it out to her in response and she then took it over to the refrigerator and filled it back up with ice and water. I have to say she could have gotten anything from me at that point.
As a parent and a future old person, witnessing Hadley's compassion is amazing. I know that when Laura and I are in need of help in our older years, Hadley will be there to help out in any way. I also know when her sister gets here in August, she is going to be amazing as she cares and loves that baby. Her desire to help others and show this compassion encourages me. It also reminds me that I can and should show such compassion to others; a gift I might not have expected from my five year old.