Thank you all for your insights on my loyalty post. I am amazed at how often I revert back to my old "middle kid" habits of protecting others and making peace in the group. A year or so after my parents divorced and both remarried, my stepmother and I were having a conversation about "how things were going" and I started to cry. I remember telling her that it hurt me so much to know that my parents hated each other and disagreed about everything. I felt as though that would always be true and that there were permanent cracks in my foundation. My fondest wish, I told her, was that we could all find an enormous house, a big colonial-style white house with black shutters and a black door with a brass knocker. Big enough to have separate wings for each family group. Large enough for all of the kids to run around and play together, inside and outside. I was tired of traveling from Oregon to Wyoming several times a year. I didn't want to have to talk to my stepmother about important stuff when I knew it was my mom who wanted to be there. I didn't want to only show my mom how hard I could kick the soccer ball when it was my dad I was trying to impress. I wanted to be able to walk down the corridor instead of asking to make a long distance phone call. I wanted my family to come back together - if not emotionally and spiritually, at least physically. I wanted them under one roof.
I woke up this morning with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. After ruminating all weekend on the question of loyalty and filling up my well of emotional strength, this is what I came to. I am grateful that I am in a position to care for someone who needs me. I am grateful that this person is in a position to accept my help. I am grateful for the support I have from family and friends. I am grateful that I have lived the life I have and experienced both joy and pain so that I can offer love and compassion. I am grateful that I will have some time to spend with my father, whom I always saw as invincible and untouchable, in a vulnerable state. I know that there will be difficult times as he undergoes surgery and recovers, for both of us, but I am grateful that I can be there to experience it all with him. I know this will give me even more compassion and will teach my children that sometimes we need to move toward things that we fear in order to grow.