Question: What role do elderly parents play in your life?

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My mother died last week,Muff near Eastern Market, 20 July 2004 and I’m mourning and thinking back. When I decided to stay here in Germany, an ocean away, I automatically decided against sharing her day-to-day life and being there to help her with her big and small needs. Not being there has felt morally wrong, always. After all, you simply can’t “delegate” tender loving care, no matter how involved you get in your parents’ living arrangements from a distance. Two of my brothers cared for her in Washington, which is very comforting, and I spent time with her recently. But still, she wasn’t a part of my daily life. I’ve always dreamt of a utopia where all of the generations of my family and my and our friends are nearby, but reality is very different.

Can you imagine having, or are you planning to have, your parents live with you and your family? There will certainly be more of that in the next years, as retirement homes will again become a great luxury. As for me, I’d like to find group living arrangements myself, with a small group of like-minded people sharing a house, and kind-hearted professionals to take care of our physical needs. Yet another utopia?

What about you? Are you struggling with arrangements for your elderly parents? Or are you already thinking about how you will handle your own last years?

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10 Responses

  1. Hi Anne

    Thanks for sharing. Like you, I made my choice (27) years ago to not live in the U.S. but not being part of my family’s life is not part of the deal. Most of us are online regularly, though Facebook (mostly) and email, and probably do more day-to-day sharing than we did before the electronic age.

    From my perspective, I believe I have thought about them as much while living abroad as I would if I were living there — if not more. I call Mom at least once a week. I love talking to her and sharing our lives. My brothers and sisters see her more often, but I call the most. We all do what we can. For the present, it’s a blessing that she can still live on her own.

    We lost Dad in 2008. The fact that I was living so far away meant that I couldn’t visit him in the hospital after his heart attack bothers me. I would have liked to have said goodbye. But he wouldn’t want me to dwell on the past, things we can’t change.

    As far as future arrangements for me — I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

  2. Dear Anne

    I am very sorry to hear about your recent sad loss.

    Your post has raised some very thought-provoking issues of a practical nature.

    I too have elderly parents who don’t live near me and I know the feelings you have described, only too well. I try to do as much as I can whenever I fly over to visit in the Uk. I would love my parents to live here in Italy with us, but I know this is unrealistic.

    As for my own last years, I have indeed had fleeting, rosy thoughts of how my future life will end. Having no children, I expect I will end up in a nice centre with other like-minded people, passing my time away reading, surfing the internet, talking to the nice young volunteers who come to such centres and hopefully helping out as much as I can with the other elderly people. I don’t think it’s going to be Utopia. It will be a reality which is inevitable and pre-determined and so I will just face it and make the most of it when and if I can.

    Thinking of you


  3. Dear JoAnn,
    It was such a pleasure meeting you! Yes, Facebook and our online connections are making a huge difference. In my family unfortunately that didn’t quite work out because my mother was clearly pre-electronic and had a condition that kept her from even picking up the phone. So it really was important to go there. – I think you’re absolutely right, we should do as much as we can and accept what we can’t change.

    Dear Janet,
    Thanks so much for your so very positive outlook on things. Perhaps without children we actually have it easier, because we know that we need to get ourselves organized and taken care of. Perhaps it’s not a utopia, just a lifestyle choice. Doable. But I don’t know anyone, either, who has actually started planning things more concretely.

    Thanks, both of you 🙂

  4. Anne,

    I’m sorry for your loss. I am sending a virtual hug and am glad I was able to give you a physical hug as well. This is a tough question you pose but does require thought. I am preparing for my parents who are both suffering health issues. I think of this often and think I have made a decision but will know when the time comes.

  5. Dear Anne,
    In Ireland people say “sorry for your trouble”, I know in the US they offer their condolences. One way or another, I ‘d like to offer you my sympathy on the passing of your mother. I hope it’s not too hard for you now.
    I grew up with older parents which also had its advantages. They’d seen and heard it all before and somehow you believed them.
    And as for my old age … my basic wish is that I can look after myself physically and mentally as long as I’m on this planet.
    Best wishes,

  6. Hi Anne,

    Dear lovely Sister,

    I would like to convey my profound condolences to you, and to your whole family. Moms usually are the most important gifts which
    we have recieved from our God. Death itself is a bell which is
    made to make us think again and again in our life and the
    meaning of our life. You were a very good daughter
    as I have seen from your writings.

    Big hug for my lovely sister and calm down.
    I wish you all the best.

    Hassan Elsisi

  7. Thank you very, very much, Joan, Shelly, Chris, Hassan. I was a little worried about publishing such personal news on my blog, don’t want to fish for sympathy. But I do think about extended families quite a lot, wanting to keep family up is something so universal, and the choices are not always easy. Anyway: I do think we’ll all manage to get our things sorted out. Thanks again for your messages. 🙂

  8. I’m very sorry for your loss, Anne, and I wish you strength and consolation in the times ahead. It’s hard to avoid utopian fantasies — about families and otherwise — I think we’re wired that way from an early age. But as you say, reality is very different. We do what we can, and it’s enough.

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