Tag Archives: Aging Parents

Fatimah: Being a Proud & Grateful Parent of a Parent: Part III: TRUST


In my first writing for OOPS 50, I mentioned several words that have impacted my relationships with my parents and with all people I encounter.  These chosen words shape my living and my writing and should be shared again.  My chosen words:


You may, from time to time, experience similarities or repetitions in my word usage or phrases.  They all relate.  They are all my foundation.  Today, I am adding GRATITUDE to my list, but I want to talk about TRUST.

Let’s see what Webster’s and the thesaurus have to say about TRUST.



Trusting could be viewed as a ‘thin’ line between knowing and not knowing, between asking “is it real or Memorex?”  One of my many mentors states that, if you question, an opportunity presents itself to look within yourself—and the answer will be there.   

Pape's 106 Birthday Celebration

As we mature, we become wise women, or at least wiser women, acquiring from experiences the processes and effects of trusting or not—who, what, when—those nagging questions and details. 

I am speaking here about trusting SELF, the big trust!  The scary trusting!  The questionable trust.  The fear that comes just from the thought of trusting self is a BIGGY!  To do so, for me, requires constant, conscious awareness of self, allowinghere again, utilizing another one of my words—that the work must be done: going to the edge, jumping off, and trusting that there is a net below!  

Trusting in something we cannot see, touch, or feel is scary.  Or does feeling even have value?  Feel what you are feeling!

For my parents to have unconditional trust in me to care for them required some releasing, some trusting that they had done a great job in raising me, that they will be cared for—some letting go, to a degree, of being in charge, moving from being the doer to being done for. Bottom line:  a lot was required of them!

Being the proud and grateful parent of my parents was and is a heart-intense journey.  And I do mean intense. Continue reading Fatimah: Being a Proud & Grateful Parent of a Parent: Part III: TRUST

Father’s Day: Significant Family Memories


For Father’s Day, I asked my friend, Judy King-Calnek to share some of her memories about her father, who was one of the few African Americans to go to Harvard University in 1941.  Toward the end of her piece, you will find a link detailing his experience at Harvard told by the Boston Globe entitled, Southern Discomfort: With quiet grace, two black men change the heart of Harvard in 1941.   

While driving down the FDR Drive in Manhattan, I was still savoring the excitement of Brazil’s first victory in the World Cup, which I had watched and celebrated with friends in a cute little Brazilian bistro in Brooklyn that could’ve easily been in Copacabana.  I was on my way to work that morning, and even though it was only 7:45 a.m., the sun was shining brightly and it was so warm that I drove with my car windows and sunroof wide open, not to mention the radio cranked up.  

Dr. Judith King-Calnek

As I surfed the pre-selected buttons to find some music, preferably something I could sing along to as it was one of those kind of days, I was grabbed by a voice I had known since my childhood growing up in Cleveland.  It was Louis Armstrong on his tribute album to Fats Waller, singing “All That Meat and No Potatoes” – one of my father’s favorites.  I sang along at the top of my lungs, not like the 50 year old teacher getting ready to talk to her anthropology students as they prepare for a summer of fieldwork, but like the little girl who used to dance frenetically about the living room, with no clue of the double entendre of the lyrics, laughing as my father laughed at my glee and excitement when Satchmo wailed, and Daddy and I both sang out, “Give that food to the alligators!”.



Continue reading Father’s Day: Significant Family Memories

Visiting My 84-Year-Old Dad


Last week, I went to Cleveland to spend time with my aging dad.  There was concern–because he fell a few times and could not get up.   While I was visiting, various family members made comments such as, “he’s frail, he needs a walker; he might be depressed; he shouldn’t be driving,” etc.  And what did I find?   Some of the above, but not all.  It’s just not that simple.

To know what’s going on, I decided not to depend on the observations of others.   When I got the chance to talk to my dad alone (about driving, falling, not wanting to use the walker, etc.), he sat back in his big leather chair, looked me right in the eye, and said, “I wasn’t prepared. I just wasn’t prepared to get old like this and not be able to do the things I want and need to do.  I can’t believe it.” 

My heart ached for my dad, yet, at the same time, I turned selfishly to my own needs.  I immediately started thinking about what I can do to prepare myself so I won’t end up like him at 84. I started to make a list in my head of things I need to do to be more vigilant about my life, like walking, more yoga, better diet, more sleep, and on and on.  No time to lose. But then I realized the physical is just one aspect of our life, and, no matter how critical it is,  there is more, so much more, that it is hard to talk about. So, while it was a little uncomfortable to talk about such intimate issues with my dad, I knew that I could.  We have that history.  Continue reading Visiting My 84-Year-Old Dad

Aging Mothers, Dating, and Gifts

Dear Johanna:

My mother is turning 90, so it seems like I should be over any issues I have with her by this time and should be happy letting her sit there, knitting, minding her own business–but instead, all it takes sometimes is for me to walk in her living room and see her face for me to go off the deep end.  How can a little lady of 90 still drive me so crazy?  Especially when she hasn’t even said a word!  After all, I’m supposed to be grown up by now:  I’m 53 years old!

Childish in Chicago

Dear Childish:

It’s perfectly understandable.  That woman isn’t innocent!  She’s not just sitting there knitting!  She’s scoping you out!  You say she’s “minding her own business.”  Have you ever known a mother that truly minds her own business?  And she doesn’t need any words to tell you what she’s thinking.  All she has to do is look up from her knitting, with a face that says, “Oh, so you’ve put on a few pounds!” or “I see, you haven’t been taking good care of yourself: your hair is not brushed,” or “Do you mean to tell me that lazy no-good husband of yours still has not gotten a job?”  Of course, you lose it!  You may think you’re 53 years old, but you’re instantly back to being 7,  with your mother disapproving of your school outfit!  But, that’s ok, just remember this:  if she weren’t such a spunky little thing, you wouldn’t be the strong, vital woman you are!  And, when she’s gone, trust me, you’ll miss those disapproving looks.  Certainly no one else in the world will ever care about every detail of your life the way she does!  Tell her to wipe that look off her face and smile when you come to see her because you love her to death!

Dear Johanna:

Why is it that I have to be the person in our marriage that always buys the gifts for everyone?  Did anyone ever say that a man is, by nature, incapable of picking out gifts or something?  Even when the gift is for someone in my husband’s family, like his sister’s son, I’m the one who has to remember to buy the Bar Mitzvah present!  How fair is that?

Sick of it in St. Petersburg

Dear Sick,

I’m with you on this one, since I’ve been Santa for all of our five kids, with no help from the sleeping giant!  I have an idea: next time you have to buy a present for his nephew, tell him you’ve picked out a great collection of love poems or a special, anniversary copy of “Gone With the Wind,” and all he has to do is sign the card, “Love, Your Devoted Uncle.”

Dear Johanna,

I’m recently divorced, after being married for 20 years, the last five of which were pretty lacking in the love department, and I’m petrified about having sex with a man again.  I’m afraid I won’t even know what to do–and I shudder to think of how I’ll look in a sexy nightgown!

Feeling Old in Ohio

Dear Feeling,

Stop that nonsense!  Every wrinkle on your body came from valuable life experience.  You are a wonderful collection of knowledge, laughter, heartache, joy, sadness, and skill.  Flaunt it!  And, as to not knowing what to do:  remember that old saying about riding a bike?  Just get ride back on that saddle and ride, sister, ride!

Losing My Father, Age 94



My father died three weeks ago.  He was 94 years old, and he had lived a good life.  He  was  a good man.  I’d like to write something funny for him because he loved a joke better than anyone I’ve ever known.  I’d like to make him laugh.  But I can’t do that right now.

Because he was 94, I thought, as a grown woman over fifty, I was prepared for his leaving.  He had, after all, become less of himself over the past few years.  His personality, which was once happy and somewhat mischievous, had dwindled.  He’d always been a cheerful and accommodating man; now he could be grumpy.  Although he still took enjoyment in things and people, it was on a smaller scale.  In earlier days,  he had loved to travel to distant places, eat strange new foods; now he was just as satisfied by field trips from his Assisted Living Facility to the local mall with its chain restaurants.

I had actually thought–because he was this diminished version of himself–that I would adjust fairly easily to his death, that I was even ready for it.  I had told myself it might make life easier, in some ways.  I wouldn’t have to worry about Daddy falling in his bathroom or being bed-ridden in a  dreaded nursing home.  I wouldn’t have to feel uneasy any more when I went to visit him and tried to think up topics of conversation that he would enjoy.  My oldest sister, the manager of his finances, wouldn’t have to worry about him ordering $900 worth of coins from a scam artist on television.  Things would be all nice and easy.  After all, he was 94 years old!

But when your father dies, your father dies.  It doesn’t matter how old he is or how diminished or sick he has been or that he may have had a massive stroke and does not even recognize you when you walk in his hospital room.  That person hooked up to wires is still your father,  or,  in my case, still the person who sang me out-of-tune, homemade lullubies, waited up for me after Saturday night dates in high school, and sent  me $25 checks in graduate school with just brief messages like, “A little something to keep the wolves from the door.  Love, Daddy.”

So, even if I may not have realized it by the hospital bed, I got it the instant he was gone.   After all the wires and machines and nurses had disappeared, that near-stranger became,  almost instantly, the father I knew and loved, the man who had raised me.

I wasn’t prepared  for that.  Any more than I was prepared for these weeks since then.

I miss my father on a gut level.  And grief comes in waves.  I’ll do fine, until I see something he would have enjoyed–a scratch-off lottery ticket, a comic strip, an amusing and informative obituary–and I’m gone.  Or I’ll be at work, trying to be normal and act as if nothing has happened, and someone will ask how I’m doing, and I’m gone again.  And, because my mother died five years ago and I am now officially an orphan, I am gone into a deep, dark place of childish fear and overwhelming sadness.  (It’s strange how my father’s death has made the wound of my mother’s death fresh again.)

All of this makes me remember a time in Berlin, Germany, when I was almost seven years old.  I was walking down a busy street, holding what I thought was my father’s hand, when I looked up to discover a stranger looking down at me.   The man was my father’s height, and, like my father, kind enough to let me go chattering along until I discovered my mistake naturally–but he was clearly not my father.  In an instant, before I turned and saw my father behind me, waiting patiently, afraid to scare me by interrupting my story, I was completely lost and terrified.  My story was gone from my head.  Berlin was no longer anything like a city I wanted to visit.

Just like my seven-year old self, I have been stopped, mid-sentence, to discover that my father is gone.  And all I want to do is what I did then:  plant my feet firmly on the ground, draw in a deep breath, and scream at the top of my lungs, perhaps even loud enough for him to hear me again: “Daddy!”