An aging parent


Published on

Published in: Health & Medicine
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

An aging parent

  1. 1. An Aging Parent
  2. 2. Preface / IntroductionCall me now for your FREE Internet marketing consultation. $100 value. Let an expert show youRIGHT NOW how to profit online every single day without leaving home. Call me — Tim Ricke —now, (417)693-6581, or contact me on Skype at tim.ricke1, LIVE 24/7/365. Your successguaranteed. I’m waiting for your call RIGHT NOW!This ebook contains three articles by Dr. Jeffrey Lant concerning his father and assisted living. Thisis something that I am facing with my Mother and Mother-In-Law and I have found these articles tobe inspirational, I hope those of you facing the same do also.
  3. 3. Table of Contents1. Thoughts on assisted living, aging, Dad, and guilt.2. Dont laugh at my jokes too much. Thoughts on senior nookie, assisted living, love after eighty,and unexpected bliss at the end of life.3. ... before the darkness falls. Thoughts on my fathers last home, changing places and the painsthat make us human.
  4. 4. An Aging ParentThoughts on assisted living, aging, Dad, and Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. Here is the most important four-letter word in the entire English language:home. It conjures up and is connected to every element of the well-lived life: spouse, family, peace,comfort, security. Nothing can match its importance, nothing can duplicate its significance. Nothingis more powerful than our memories of home and their enduring pull, always tugging at our heartstrings. Home and its rhythms, its well remembered aspects, its secrets, its traditions, itsconfidences, its ways so well known and carefully maintained... these have a power over us thatnever fails, never pales, never wavers, never diminishes, and are always clear, fresh, joyful,unforgettable, bittersweet, haunting, the sweetest memories of our entire life.This is an article on the moment that comes to each of us... when this home, our very special,irreplaceable place, must be given up because its proprietors can no longer maintain it, now needingparticular care themselves. This is an article about a moment poignant, sad, dreadful, irrevocable. Itis about the people who take this step first, our parents... then about their children, us, who will trodthe difficult road, too, but not yet... and what they must do today, a day of emotional turmoil,distress, a day for which all preparation is inadequate.For this article I have selected the song "My Old Kentucky Home" (1852) by Americas first greatcomposer, Stephen Foster. It is one of the most wistful, longing songs of our country... andwhenever one hears it one thinks, and tearful too, of ones own home, now gone, far away, never tobe replaced, always to be remembered, the more so as the destination you are now going to cannever be a home like the one left behind. Go now to any search engine. Find and play it at once. It isthe perfect accompaniment to this article.The call.The call we all fear, cannot bear thinking about, but must think about -- comes the day our agingparents first consider assisted living, whether outwardly calm and willing, or fighting the hopelessbattle to avoid this fate, roiled by turbulent emotions deep within, so clearly visible without.Assisted living.The words "assisted living" are two of the most frightening and disturbing in our language. It is easyto see why. Assisted living is mostly the province of the retired, the ill, the aging, geriatric survivorsof better times. As such it is a venue to be put off and avoided whenever possible, for as long aspossible; as much so as if each assisted living facility had posted at its front door this immemorialadmonition from Dantes "Inferno": "Abandon all hope ye who enter here."Such institutions are perceived as the final way station before cosmic extinction; the place one entersunhappy, angry, misunderstood, and which one leaves dead; the place for the irremediably old, thosewho are past it, marginal, unconsidered, beyond the care and concern of anyone other than thosepaid to care and be concerned; lonely people of the Eleanor Rigby variety.All of life...Assisted living, with its implied inadequacies and dependence, is always and often indignantlycompared to the joy of independent living, where you do what you want, when you want, withwhom you want, in just the way you want; in other words the kind of living each of us desires,insists upon, and does everything possible to maintain. Assisted living, of course, is widelyperceived as the antithesis of the desired independent living. Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 4 of 13
  5. 5. An Aging ParentBut this is wrong.ALL living is assisted living. For unless you are rabidly antisocial and determined to remain thatway, alone, isolated, happy and contented in your aloneness, you are assisted -- every single day --by people whose aim is to make you reasonably happy, reasonably content, and reasonablycomfortable. Thus, in truth, when one moves from living regarded as independent to living regardedas assisted, one is evolving from one kind of care to another kind of care; one is tweakingcircumstances the better to ensure the maximum continuation of your desired life style. One is notundergoing metamorphosis, but comparative and necessary improvement.Sadly, most people undergoing this process are unable to see this, or at least to state it to guilt-riddenrelatives who are thus distressed by the painful thought that Aunt Martha is being cast off rather thanmoved to an appropriate level of care, concern, and consideration. Most assisted living facilitiesthese days resemble college campuses or resorts; they know the grief, anger, recriminations anddistress which new residents bring and work hard to create an atmosphere that is at once attractive,even beautiful; livable, practical, and serene, factors which soothe the guilt of those recommendingassisted living to those near and dear but are often dismissed as inadequate or unimportant by thosebeing recommended into the facility.Receiving the intelligence.Twice in my life, so far, have I been a participant to greater or lesser degree, in conversationssurrounding the movement of one near and beloved to assisted living. The first such conversationsinvolved my mother; the second set involved my father. These conversations could hardly have beenless similar -- or more instructive about the principals involved and affected.My mother, student of Dylan Thomas that she was, did not, nor could not, go gentle into this goodnight. She raged, raged against what she was sure was the dying of the light. Despite weakeninghealth and the myriad of problems stemming therefrom my mother fought hard, strenuously,vociferously, painfully against the notion of "incarceration" in an assisted living facility, therebybranded as penal institution, not comfortable necessity. Her transition from living deemedindependent to living deemed assisted was therefore protracted, painful, packed with imprecations,denigrations, accusations, maledictions which made Emile Zolas famous declaration "Jaccuse" looksniveling.My father handled the matter entirely different... and I suspect this was partly because he will havewith him his wife Ellie; to be alone at lifes end is painful; to be partnered with a loved mate lessonsthe pain while increasing the means to combat and to live with it.Sad, wistful, practical, accepting.When my father called yesterday to inform me that he and Ellie had made arrangements to sharetheir dwindling, most precious days together in assisted living, I felt a lump in my throat. Heextolled the grounds, their private apartment, the food, the friendly residents... but whether hebelieved all this as stated or was just trying out what would become the stock reason or their move, Icannot say... for I was reflecting on a few words that he had said.Entering the dining room where they would find their daily meals, he was surprised to find itpeopled with the old, feeble, and infirm. Could this be he at 86, Ellie at 87? Or had some mistakeoccurred? She, knowing how difficult it had to be for him to transform his independent life to one"assisted", took his hand and reassured him that no mistake was made; they were in the right place,which he would soon know, if he did not know already. And thus these proud, fiercely independentsouls, more used to assisting others than being assisted, move into the next phase of their lives,together, facts faced, practical decisions made, gently, calmly, with love and care. And I admired Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 5 of 13
  6. 6. An Aging Parentmy father so, not merely as son to father, but as man to man. For he faced the difficult, the fearful,the unpalatable, with grace, quietude, reserve, with good judgement, good humor, and a good wife,well stocked and ready for the journey ahead... which they will travel similarly and with kindness,above all with kindless and the help of those glad to assist them, and with kindness too.** We invite you to post your comments to this article. Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 6 of 13
  7. 7. An Aging ParentDont laugh at my jokes too much. Thoughts on seniornookie, assisted living, love after eighty, and unexpectedbliss at the end of Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note: Suddenly, I burst into a song that made us both laugh. In my croaky voicecelebrated worldwide for its almost incredible ability to hit every single note wrong, there I waspositively warbling one of the most beautiful tunes ever written,"Dont throw bouquets at me/ Dont please my folks too much/ Dont laugh at my jokes too much/People will say were in love!"And then, as unexpected as I had been when I lurched into song, he responded in kind:"Dont sigh and gaze at me/ Your sighs are so like mine/ Your eyes mustnt glow like mine/ Peoplewill say were in love!"It was my father. It was a recent Saturday during one of our regular "tour dhorizon" briefings on thestate of the known world and the current disposition of all its inhabitants. He was relating the latestinstallment of "love among the ruins," the latest red-hot gossip from what he will call "theinstitution", the assisted living facility where he and my step-mother Miss Ellie now reside. And, asusual, nothing, absolutely nothing, was lost in the telling of this sizzling soap opera, an opus withmore twists, turns and unexpected strands than "Desperate Housewives."Todays "Extra! Extra! Hear all about it!" installment was the latest in the continuing saga of twopillars of the senior establishment, Mrs. Winterbotham, a slip of a lass at 88, and her "sweet boy"Ronnie, lithe and plausible at 90. Before continuing, I feel duty bound to tell you what follows issensual to a degree, a matter of grand passion, skullduggery, labyrinthine conspiracies, and frequentnaps and bathroom breaks by all concerned as well as gossip, at once malicious, envying, poignant,unrelenting, and always worth the telling.But before that happens, you must re-hear "People Will Say Were In Love" (for I suspect youalready know and cherish it as I do). Youll find this loveliest of love songs in any search engine. Itwas written in 1943 by Oscar Hammerstein II and composed by Richard Rodgers for the firstmodern musical that ever was, "Oklahoma!" Go listen now. Itll make you feel very young andhopeful all over again... and that is the point of this story... and the song.What my father told me.My regular phone conversation had to be postponed a bit because, as he told me, he and Miss Elliehad a very special and delicate mission to undertake; he was sure Id understand the necessity toreschedule. I murmured concurrence, and they went out to gather the latest amatory intelligencefrom their dear friend Amanda Winterbotham, there to dispense unstinting empathy, understanding,and the wisdom that we are all supposed to get when aging, but mostly never do.We muddle. We age. We muddle some more. We die. Most annoying. That is why as we age weneed good friends more than ever... because we didnt learn quite as much along the way as we needor as we over confidently thought we had. This is why all known languages feature such pungentexpressions as these: "Theres no fool like an old fool." "A man growing old is a child again."(Sophocles). "Age is a high price to pay for maturity." (Tom Stoppard). And... but you get the drift...These are the facts. Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 7 of 13
  8. 8. An Aging ParentAmanda Winterbotham is a woman of education, sense, solid principles, her own teeth and a nicelittle nest egg in rock-solid securities which proved their true worth by not collapsing in the recenteconomic melt-down. She also bakes often and lavishly and has the ability to tempt compliments outof even the most jaded and pernickety of world-weary epicureans. She is also a woman and thereinlies the rub... for such a woman, for all that shes barely on the sunny side of 90, still likes a kiss anda cuddle, though she feels embarrassed at her age to own up to it. Why should she?After all, her well-heeled, utterly respectable parents, Top Drawer, (for she is a Winterbotham of theOyster Bay Winterbothams) christened her "Amanda". This as every student of the Latin languageknows means "She who must be loved". The tense, I remind you, is the hortatory imperative. Makea note of it. I put it to you: what chance did she have with dapper Ronnie near at hand and desirable,a hunk at 140 pounds dripping wet, with a penchant for the grape and an eye for the ladies. So longas she is the lady in question and her "sweet boy" means every sweet thing he has said to herAmanda is satisfied. Basta.On this basis, Ronnie and his walker are regularly seen en route to Amandas nicely appointedapartment, ensconced in that apartment (with the once ever open door now often closed), or exitingfrom that apartment at all hours, a crumb of blueberry scone on his lips -- and a smile.There this tale should have ended, two people hitherto facing each new dawn as listlessly as the last-- now enraptured with each other, engrossed, glad to be alive. Yes, it should have ended there... butit most assuredly did not."People will say were in love."People talk. Thats what we do. We talk when were happy. We talk when were sad. We talk whenwere lonely. We talk when were not. We spend most every waking moment thinking about whatwe have just been told... talking... or contemplating the very next thing we intend to say and theundeniably fortunate individual to whom we intend to say it. Talking is our metier... and each andevery day we pursue it... especially when we have a piece of glorious intelligence we just cannotbear to keep to ourselves.No, it must be told... and told at once. Nowhere is this more true than in the senior residences we call"assisted living" where there is ample time, hawk-like vision, and a desire to know all... and tell all.Gossip is omnipresent, unending, told with aplomb, laced with wit, shrewdness, exquisite malice anddiabolical humor. This was the price for Ronnie and the pleasure of his company. Was Amanda, dearAmanda, prepared to pay it?Dear Amanda was bewitched, bothered and bewildered by... her children (who gave long looks ofdespair while bleating endless variations of "Mama, at your age!"). By... old friends who knew herlate husband. They reminded her that Queen Victoria always remained true to Prince Albert... whycouldnt she do as much? The serving staff (composed of young people distinguished by tattoos andear rings) weighed in and said "Go for it!") But the minister who came with a message ofbrotherhood, redemption and the necessity to tithe gave her stern looks and sterner admonitions tostay chaste for Jehovah. What had begun as an affaire of the heart was now a burgeoning scandal.And so she asked my father and Miss Ellie to come for some of her delectable short bread (thesecret was a drop of fine sherry in the dough) and advice.Clarity amidst cacophony. My father at his best.My father for close to 90 years has been known as a sympathetic friend, a ready ear, discrete, a manof strong views but greater empathy; above all fair, someone who would tell you the truth as heunderstood it without lording over you, making you feel inadequate, weak, a fool. As such AmandaWinterbotham wanted his opinion... and Miss Ellie wanted him to give it. Why? Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 8 of 13
  9. 9. An Aging ParentFirst for the sake of helping dear Amanda, who was by now severely stressed and embarrassed by avery private matter now anything but. But perhaps more for my fathers sake. Hows that?Because since moving into assisted living just a few months ago, my father has felt disoriented,depressed, despondent, regarding this residence not as a home but a holding tank for the GrimReaper... He was in dismay, unhappy, burdened by thoughts of an eternity too fast coming, way toofast... a man who had spent his life helping others was now too focused on himself.Did Miss Ellie, perhaps, whisper a timely word in Miss Amandas ear? If so, I shouldnt be surprisedfor women throughout the ages have known just what to do in such situations. This is why I can seeso clearly in my minds eye my father and Miss Ellie, proceeding slowly down the hall, stately, eachwith a cane and consummate dignity. Amandas door was open... Ellie entered first. Was there at thatmoment a special look that passed between the ladies? I cannot say... but my father later told me itfelt good to be helpful again... and how did Mrs. Winterbotham know chocolate chip cookies withextra chocolate chips were his favorite? How indeed... But I could imagine Miss Ellie singing..."Dont take my arm too much/Dont keep your hand in mind/ Your hand feels so grand in mine/People will say were in love./And so they are and do not care who knows... Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 9 of 13
  10. 10. An Aging Parent... before the darkness falls. Thoughts on my fathers lasthome, changing places and the pains that make us Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. It is 3:07 a.m. here in the East. It is not so much that I cannot sleep. Rather,its that I dont want to. I am thinking about my father as I often do. He is undoubtedly asleep now,has gotten safely through another day and will awake in due course to the promise of another. Inother words, he is being well taken care of, and I dont need to worry, the Number One Son inMassachusetts; he in California. But I do worry..."Jeffrey, let me ask you..."He called me the other day, with that note of concern Ive come to know and which bites me so."Jeffrey let me ask you..." and so it started. Another chip to the father-son relationship whichdefined and guided us for so many years, now as ancient as the hills. Things between us, once welldefined and wary, are changing now; changing, changing... we neither of us like it, but the realitiesof living always pulverize our mere wishes... and because we are living, we must still live, no matterhow painful that may be. And it often is...He asks."Jeffrey, youve never had a house have you?" "No, Dad, I never did.""Youve always lived in an apartment, havent you?" "Yes, Dad, I have.""You like it, dont you?" "Yes, Dad, I do.""Whys that?" "Well, for openers I dont have to take out the garbage... or plant the flowers... or paintthe fence... " And the list goes on."You used to hate doing those things, didnt you?" "Yes, Dad, every minute, every single one. Iwanted to read. You wanted me to wash the windows." There is more than a little bit of asperity,accusation and unresolved irritation in my voice. I am 65, it all happened a half century ago andmore; it shouldnt matter, but it does. Memory makes the long ago the active and unresolved, still onmy agenda of things compelling attention. I might wish it doesnt matter, but it does."I do not plant or reap."Now the benefits of apartment living pour forth. I discover I am defending my choices, as childrenof any age feel compelled to do from time to time. To live the life I want takes teams of peopletaking care of me. I am used to this and rely on them to do the necessary. This is how the privilegedclasses of history have lived; it is how I always wanted to live; it is how I live; it is how I want himto live; it is how he should live in this his too fast dwindling of days.But he is of a different time and place, a time of self-reliance, where if you wanted warmth inwinter, you chopped fire wood and so warmed yourself twice. I hated this work... and I hated allsuch things... things that obstructed the life I wanted; the life waiting for me, beckoning me,insinuating itself into every thought. "I am what you want, what you must have," and I couldnt waitto seize it. The myriad versions of chopping wood were important, but they were never imperative,like the dream that enthralled me. And thus there were problems and a battle that waxed and waned,but never stopped.However he is not criticizing, judging, he is seeking something perhaps only I can give:confirmation that he has done the right thing, for with assisted living, without responsibilities, comes Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 10 of 13
  11. 11. An Aging Parentan avalanche of doubts, uncertainties, and the kinds of anxieties which force one to sit bolt upright indead of night... and wonder..."Jeffrey, I dont like not having a home anymore."But he does have a home. Its in a wonderful facility that looks like a college campus or place on agolf course. He and Miss Ellie, his wife, did not rush their choice. They looked at the full range ofpossibilities, moved with due deliberation, not haste. Visited, revisited, discussed, revisited. Therewas no rush about it, though it was apparent to both a decision must be made and made while theywere both entirely able to make it.He recalls each house he has ever owned.He is remembering now and my role is clear. I must hear what he says, completely... and I mustpledge (though he doesnt say so) to remember. And so a chant begins; of houses built or bought;houses turned into homes and profits; a lifetime of patient acquisition and certain return. "I havealways made money on every house we ever lived in." And he recites them now, not to brag, but sothat he is sure I know and will remember. My memory is tenacious; he knows that, and so the litanybegins... from 4906 Woodward Avenue, which he built with his own hands (and partly mine)...His eyes are closed now and as he recalls, he recites; my eyes are closed, too, and I am rememberingwith him... and these, his memories of being a good father, chary of his resources, patiently awaitingthe results he foresaw and planned for, are clear, poignant, bittersweet. And triumphant.For he wants me to know, and to sear into my mind that he made money enough for his family,enough for himself and Miss Ellie so they would burden no one, and something for the nextgeneration, too. He was proud, as he had the right to be; not arrogant. He knew what he was due...and knew that I would give it, full measure. We who had often engaged in combat and dispute fullyunderstood each word now, each recollection, each and every nuance, delivered with sureness andfinality... for on this subject there was nothing more to say... and we were both glad he had done so,so well, every word apt, every description complete and accurate.He was tired now. So was I.It is often said that as parents and children age they reverse roles. But this is not entirely true.Instead a situation infinitely more complex and difficult emerges; a situation where the parent mayremain the parent as well as the child and where the child may be in an instant not just one but both,thereby dramatically increasing the possibilities for confusion; things clear to one, misunderstood bythe other. It would be easier, far easier, if a simple role reversal took place, clear to each, but this isnot the way it is for either party. And so, before the darkness falls, we need to learn, again who weare, who they are, what they need and must have, what we have that we may give and give stillmore. In short, we must at their end begin again, new roles to learn and urgent, too, for the darknessis nigh and there is much to learn and do before the end.Thus one of the most important, revealing and timely conversations of my life ended; we wereweary and needed rest. The meeting, by phone, ended as easily as a sigh. We had done what neededto be done.But I had one more thing to do, one more thing to listen to, to ponder. Bruce Springsteens 1982evocation "My Fathers House." And I went to a search engine to play it. I urge you to find it now...and ready yourself for a melody and lyrics which cut deep and place an unrelenting memory in you.""Last night I dreamed that I was a child... I was trying to make it home... before the darkness falls Iran with my heart pounding down that broken path... I broke through the trees and there in the nightMy fathers house stood shining hard and bright the branches and brambles tore my clothes and Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 11 of 13
  12. 12. An Aging Parentscratched my arms But I ran till I fell shaking in his arms."Now I can do as much for him... and must. Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 12 of 13
  13. 13. An Aging ParentResourceAbout the Author Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a widerange of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home businesstraining, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting,hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 onlineHome Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.Republished with authors permission by Tim Ricke Copyright Tim Ricke - 2012 13 of 13