On January 17 of this year, I notified Methodist University, where I teach, that I won’t return for the fall semester.  I suppose this means I’m retiring, though I still do plan to work (details of that to be worked out later).  I planned to stay in my present position longer than this; I am sad that I’m in my last few months as a full-time professor.  My elderly parents really do need some assistance, though, and I can’t help them much living in North Carolina while they are in Michigan.

Several people have asked, “Why don’t you move them in with you?”  I answer that they don’t want to move from their home.  I could also say that to remove two elderly adults from the only town they’ve ever known and from the house they have lived in for fifty years would be a form of violence, an uprooting and transplanting that could destroy them.  That is not an option.

In November of last year, I wrote about “epiphanies of recruitment,” a term coined by Brian Mahan.  I explained the concept as follows: “An epiphany is a manifestation of divinity or of some deeper truth, so an epiphany of recruitment is such a manifestation that includes an invitation to do something in response to what has been revealed. “  In other words, a person has an experience in which some truth is manifest, and within it is a call to do something.  My call came last August.  It was near the end of a visit with my parents, and I was feeling good that I had helped them by getting some things done around their house.  My dad is suffering from dementia, and says relatively little.  Nonetheless, he took me aside and talked with a passion I hadn’t seen for some time.  He told of an elderly friend of theirs who is blind but has a daughter living with him, helping him.  He asked me to come and help him and my mom.  I stammered something—some excuse why I couldn’t come—but his words were like an arrow piercing my heart.  I knew that what I was doing for them fell far short of what they needed.

Friends tell me I’m a good son and am making a big sacrifice.  I’m really not so noble, though.  French philosopher Simone Weil wrote the following:  “We should do only those righteous actions which we cannot stop ourselves from doing, which we are unable not to do.”  I probably would not be going if I could find a way to talk myself out of it, but I can’t.  This is one of those things I’m unable not to do.

I’m still thinking quite a bit about what will change for me.  I’ve liked the life I’ve had; I’m not so sure I’ll like the one I’m headed for.  What though, am I giving up?  It mainly comes down to comfort, enjoyable work, and a sense of security.   Maybe I cling too tightly to those.  Weil also wrote, “We only possess what we renounce; what we do not renounce escapes from us.”  I think it’s time to see whether that’s true.