Most people know professors John McCullough, Don Balla and Mike Kennelley for their teaching in the College of Business at John Brown University. Yet they share another common experience, being the primary caretakers for their elderly parents.
John and Judy McCullough
John and Judy McCullough take care of both their widowed mothers. Just last week, John’s mother, age 86, moved into their home because her health took a significant turn for the worse. She now needs complete care.
“To us it is a pleasure that we have the opportunity to care for our moms, both of them,” said John McCullough. “We have purposely chosen to help them be as independent as they can be for as long as they want to be.”
John’s mom lived independently in her home for nine years, while Judy’s mom, a widow aged 85, lived on her own for three years.
John and Judy agreed what to do if either parent got to the point where she could not live on her own. “Our first preference would be to move them into our home and care for them so that they would still be in a family setting,” said McCullough.
The McCullough’s see mothers’ proximities as a huge blessing. For 30 of their 40 years of marriage, their parents lived far way.
Now, they enjoy forming a deeper, adult friendship with their moms.
“It is a blessing to see the confidence that she has in her relationship with the Lord, the beauty in her smile, even though it is harder to see, is still there, that her spirit is still alive and active,” McCullough said, describing his mother.
While taking care of his mom consumes much of their time, McCullough said, “We have found that she is really more important than anything else we do. Rather than being busy people, running around and involved, we are on a daily basis laying things down so that we can go home and be with her.”
“I don’t regret any of it,” said McCullough. “In fact, I am enjoying doing it.”
John and Judy McCullough also see a big difference in their three children since grandma’s health took a turn for the worse. “They come, and sit on the floor, hold her hand and are quiet,” he said. “I think all of us are gaining a new admiration for this thing of ‘life’, and how quickly it fades away. Grandma is not just an old person, she’s one of the family.”
Don and Judy Balla
Don and Judy Balla take care of Don’s 93-year-old mother living in the house they built five years ago expressly for that purpose.
A few years ago, the Ballas asked her to come live with them in Siloam Springs, when her apartment in Springdale, Ark. felt harder to maintain.
Although her health remains good, Balla finds comfort in providing his mother’s care.
“It’s a blessing how well my wife handles it,” Balla said. She supports the decision to have Don’s mother in their home.
Ballas works to maintain balance between caring for wife and mother, not always simple.
“I say [to Judy], ‘Look, here are two women that I love the most, let’s not put me in a position where I have to choose between the two.’ That said, I do always communicate to Judy that she comes first. And I think my mom doesn’t mind that.”
“It is an opportunity which never comes again and, interestingly enough, it is something that not all kids get,” said Balla.
Mike and Mary Kennelley
Last Christmas break, Mike Kennelley and his wife Mary moved her mother, Mary Cheely, to a small home in the Siloam Springs area from her home near Berryville, Ark.
Still in good health, Cheely’s home with stairs became too much for an older widow to handle alone.
One of the biggest challenges of the move from her home of 35 years was getting rid of things and having to make emotionally hard decisions.
However, with Cheely nearby, Kennelley and his wife help when she needs someone to care for her property, take her to the doctor, or drive her around after dark.
“It just takes a load off our minds,” said Kennelley.
Cheely asked her daughter and son-in-law about their motive for her to move to Siloam Springs- because they were afraid for her or because they wanted to see her.
“It really was both,” Kennelley said. “We were concerned, but it is such a pleasure to have her there.”
Right now Cheely lives successfully on her own and enjoys gardening and having her own place.
“It’s still just a blessing to be around her and hear her talking about stories of when my wife was a little girl,” said Kennelley.
“I could see a point where she might need to be with us in the house,” said Kennelley. “But I would think that she would really have to be unable to get around on her own before she would really be wanting to do that.”