January 26, 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Greetings from Detroit...the postcard you send when you live in Detroit (or more likely, thereabouts).

I left Detroit after college...after years of reading the New York Times Classified Section every Sunday and wondering about this unbelievable land where there were actually want ads for artists, dancers, musicians...and writers. My brother saw the musician part and he soon followed.

Nothing was wrong with THAT picture. My folks came to visit, I went back for 30,000 mile psychological tune-ups, for weddings and funerals, to show off my babies and to dive into my beautiful fresh water Great Lakes (What is wrong with you ocean people, have you not noticed the salt??)

And life worked for us all.

The wrong part comes now, 37 years later. Because life at age 85 works differently, my parents want to be near me.  The assurance that I will land there as soon as a plane can take me is no longer enough...they feel frail, they are frail.  And so they decided it was time to leave.  Next month, they will be in an apartment near me here in Pennsylvania. They will leave behind everything they know, for although they are well-travelled, Detroit(ish) has been their home for their whole lives.They leave their brothers and sister, their bridge games and Torah study groups, the library where Mom used to work and the high school buddies Dad sees twice a week. 

They leave their son's grave.

Mom says she feels fine about leaving, she is mostly overwhelmed by the Stuff Management of a move and I can ease that for her. Dad moves through all the decisions like the hero he has become to me. When pressed, he tells me, "well, every once in a while, I do wonder what it will be like."

So this is what is heartbreakingly wrong with this picture.  I left home on a wind and a whim in the space between teen and adult and now, they are paying the price.  And they are not alone.  Aging parents around the country are becoming immigrants in a stage when it is oh so difficult to rip down and rebuild. And it is not because their offspring were seeking religious freedom, arable land, or sanctuary from bombs and bullets.

Its because they needed to be who they were. A writer. A musician. Fleeing from suburbia, flyng toward who knows what?

 I know I didn't do anything wrong, I know I am finding Grace in the role I have now taken on. I know I am by their sides in the ways they need it most.

It just seems so damn sad. Doesn't it?


  1. no. not to me. your thoughts bring me to
    the larger question of What Is a Life...for?
    there are a zillion answers for that maybe.
    but we are talking here about lives of human
    beings. 2 lives lived for a long time, one not
    so long yet.
    i can't find a wrong and i can't find a righter
    right. it is just life. and over and over
    my repeated thought is that we each are responsible for living our lives ALL ALONG as
    fully and completely as we can. and when it comes to a time when we become frail from all that living, then...we look around for, as
    Dr. Phil says, a soft place to fall. Where ever that may be. maybe just where we are. or maybe we Just Go, to be "near" our children. or
    maybe we be "near" a friend(s) if we have no
    children. but it's just a biological thing to
    me. Ageing. we get old. and at some point,
    need to defer. i love that work. defer. at some point we are worn out from living and we defer to those who are still in the middle of it. it is in my thinking at THIS moment in my own life, a cause for some kind of celebration.
    a happiness. a kind of satisfaction. why not that?

    1. fourth line from bottom:....i love that WORD...not work

    2. I never really thought about it that way before, that each stage of age brings a knowing and that knowing brings an acceptance. My folks are Just Going, when I look at it this way, it was me who attached an emotion to it all. The way, I suppose, I watch my kids with the knowing that awaits them around each corner.

      That's what I love about you, Grace, that you offer up all this wisdom and do it with Dr. Phil AND Pee Wee Herman, too!!!

  2. They are lucky to have a daughter who is so thoughtful and strong, even if she fleed Suburbia for a city thirty some years ago. That seems to be the natural course of our family :)

    1. Lucky..as am I, little Elana G, to have the same type of daughter.

  3. And it will be an adventure...no matter your age an adventure is good, and you can be their guide.

    1. This kind of reframing is just perfect for me, Margo. An adventure. Only they will be my guides by their example, I will be inthe stern of the canoe, paddle in the water as a gentle rudder along the way.

    2. i like this a lot. at one time it was a divided adventure.
      THEIR adventure, then YOUR adventure.
      Now...a mutual adventure. each leaving room for guiding
      as it goes. Just Going.
      This is really really a very Good Thing. i will look
      forward to hearing how it all unfolds.

    3. I'm glad if my comment helped, it's important to remember what you call a thing or event changes how you perceive it. It is fortunate that your parents are able and willing to move closer to you, so paddle that canoe.

  4. coming to this conversation a bit late Julie, don't worry about your folks! my Mom and her friends reckon the worst thing is when your kids start telling you what to do! They are a bunch of very feisty older women but gettin' on in years & their group of friends is dwindling as they have started to drop off the twig a bit too regularly. So last year Mom packed up the belongings and left her life in Houston where she had lived since 1978 to move to North Carolina where 3 of my brothers have ended up. She's settling in just fine, found a decent apartment in 2 weeks, a good hairdresser within a month (the first was a disaster) has a doctor that she's happy with, is playing a few tables o bridge a week & volunteering at the local hospital, she will be 84 in August!

    1. hiya Mo, thanks for stopping by and gifting your mom's experience...and your image of feisty ole' birds "dropping off the twig" imagery! Right now, they are dancing around in ecstasy since the mover just rid the basement of all the junk. "Its like a ballroom down there," they reported today.

    2. hehe! good to hear! "spirit likes to see us dance on the shifting sands of change" as my old friend Pete said so long ago & this 21st C world is certainly keeping us dancing!!