This I Believe

James - Norristown, Pennsylvania
Entered on July 28, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in returning the favor.

Earlier this year my parents sold the home I grew up in and purchased a newer, more easily maintained house in one of the many over-fifty-five communities sprouting up to accommodate the area’s burgeoning baby boomer generation. Their new digs, however, weren’t going to be ready until four months after they signed away the old ones.

Since they had almost nowhere else to go I offered to put them up in the guest room of my house. They were a bit skeptical at first. My shoebox of a town house wasn’t exactly the Park Hyatt of gated community living in which they were looking forward to spending their golden years. Nor did I carry a sterling reputation for keeping on top of important things like cleaning, laundry, or dishes. When weighed against the exorbitant cost of renting, however, their frugal sense of propriety won out and they decided that shacking up with their first born didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

The move-in went smoothly but it wasn’t long before Mom began to assert her self-proclaimed interior decorating skills all over my living room. Before I knew it my couch was repositioned. Then my pictures. One day I came home to find a gigantic wall clock hanging in back of the now off-center sectional. Apparently they couldn’t read the display on the VCR so I became the unintended owner of a new clock with numbers so large astronauts could read it from space.

Then one day the unthinkable happened. In an act of sheer malice they rearranged my kitchen cabinets. For anyone who has voluntarily foisted this jarring dislocation upon themselves you’ll recall keenly the maddening feeling of reaching for a coffee mug at seven in the morning only to grasp a dinner plate. Now imagine that you didn’t have a mental map of where the coffee mugs now lived. The entirety of my kitchen cabinetry had become one big crap shoot.

The biggest adjustment, however, came in the form of a 10 pound West Highland Terrier which I had nearly forgotten would be joining my parents for their extended stay. If my lifestyle could best be described as easy going and laid back then Jake’s is the comparative equivalent of being shot out of a cannon. Keeping him fed, entertained, and out of trouble quickly became my new part time job.

For all of each other’s quirks we’ve had to put up with over the past few months and all the lifestyle changes we’ve had to endure, it’s still easy to see my parents’ gratitude. I can taste it in my mother’s home cooked meals. I can feel it pouring out of the new shower head my father installed in the bathroom. I can see it each time I open the refrigerator and find that it’s well stocked.

The biggest reward, however, is knowing that for now, my parents sleep each night under a roof that I provide. I guess I feel like it’s just my way of returning the favor.