What does it really mean to me? What does it really mean to any of us?

What does it mean to respect another human being? What does it mean to be respected? It’s a word people believe that they want, but rarely know how to explain.

When asked what it meant to be respected, I was given many replies and responses.

Respect is when other people’s thoughts and opinions have merit. Respect is shown by including others, rather than excluding them. Being respected means not demeaning another. It means souls are mutually admired and care is evident. Respect happens when one is consistent with action, value and word. Respect is honor. Respect prefers another. Respect is acceptance without expectation. This is not to say there is complete agreement on everything, but rather an acceptance of another’s soul as it is and not what we want it to become.

I have always respected my Grandparents. We grew up at their house and their knowledge has always surpassed mine. An odd thing happened this year, however. Dementia and aging became an evident factor. They started making choices that were not healthy or safe for them. They stopped wearing teeth and refused to make proper eating choices. I found myself slowly loosing respect for the six foot four strong, tall, red headed bearded man I called my Grandfather. I watched him pull away from my Grandmother’s incessant repetitive questions from shear exhaustion. I watched him recede further into his man cave and further away from us. Through these events, I found myself once again loosing that proverbial respect. What was happening to the man who always made me feel safe? What was happening to the woman who would call me in the middle of the night because she just had a feeling I needed her in that moment? I still loved them, but my love was changing form.

I had to learn to meet them in this new place- to embrace this as the new normal. What it came down to was simple. That no matter what, I still loved my grandparents. And if I still loved them, I still respected them. I just had to learn to respect them in this new foreign place we now seemed to find ourselves in. I had to let go of my prior beliefs of who they were and learn to accept them now without expectation. I had to resign myself to attempt to understand who they had become, not who I wanted them to be based upon my previous experiences of who they used to be.

My respect for my Mother grew exponentially as I watched her heed to their every beck and call, frustrated as well by their choices. But, she never handled them with anything less than pure, authentic love. She consistently included my Grandmother in her day-to-day life, even if she couldn’t remember it and asked the exact same questions in the exact same tone of voice seven minutes later, seventy nine times a day. She loved them. She was learning to respect the new normal as well.

Nothing can prepare a person for the aging process. No one can prepare a person for the horrors of dementia. Due to all the special circumstances that came  with this September’s arrival, I can honestly say that that this has quite possibly been two of the the hardest weeks of my life.  I  wanted to mentally remove myseld from the whole situation, goingkng through the motions without actually feeling the unimaginable pain of accepting the fact that these people who were my rock now need me to be there’s. But, that is a part of respecting them too, being who they needed with authentic generosity, regardless of my own selfish desires.

I’ve come to the conclusion that respect is love. And love is respect. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand how to separate them as two separate entities, but upon farther inspection, I believe them to be one in the same. As I begin to embark on the journey into my thirties, I am honored to take the lessons they have taught me and use them in my own life and in my own relationship. When I say, “I respect you” I believe I am indeed saying, “I love you enough to meet you where you are at.”

“And the seasons they go round and round. Painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on a carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came. And go round and round in the circle game.” – Joni Mitchell


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