Book excerpt: Mom, Dad … Can We Talk?: Helping Our Aging Parents with the Insight and Wisdom of Others by Dick Edwards

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From the Blurb:

Mom, Dad…Can We Talk? is for the tens of millions of people dealing with concerns for aging parents. It is controversial, sometimes humorous, often poignant, encouraging — and always helpful. The book is rich with stories of adult children who have been challenged and rewarded in this final stage of the parent-child relationship. It includes tips for initiating caring conversations like: “Mom, we’re worried about you living alone.” “Sis, I need your help with all this.” And, “Dad has a lady friend!” There are also helpful hints on how to understand and manage the realities of dementia, drinking, depression, and driving. In this newly revised edition, Guest Contributors address new topics like: helping grandchildren understand their aging grandparent; helping families with aging parents who have a special needs adult child; and, adapting to the complications imposed by the sudden intrusion of a reality like a pandemic. Also included is a new discussion guide as a bonus! Mom, Dad…Can We Talk? is the how-to book you need to help successfully manage these challenging times in family life.

Mom, Dad … Can We Talk?

Your parents were a couple. Then they had a child or children, and the couple’s “identification” moved to “a family.” That’s what they’ve always known: a couple plus a kid(s) equals a family. Also, the joys they knew as a couple grew with the evolution of “family.” As the children in this example, we started our life surrounded by this family and the joys of a family from a child’s perspective. To us, a family was always a child or children plus parents. That’s what we’ve always known.

If we are lucky, we’ll also end our life surrounded by the joys of family. Whatever happens to us between our birth into the family and our passing away from it lies the groundwork for who we become. Our “in-between” time might include going away to college or joining the military, perhaps. We might marry, move to another town, start our first “real” job, and start our own family. Also, in this in-between time, the live from home, how often we visit our parents, and how often we see our siblings contribute to the family’s ever-evolving dynamic. But the dynamic, engrained, from-birth emotional and familial relationships within our family typically don’t change drastically.

At the beginning of this book, we likened our years with our family to a three-act play. Let’s say Act 1 covers your childhood years at home. The audience sees that Mom is goodhearted but has a dominant personality. They see Dad as a hard-working but passive gentleman. They see sister Sarah as the kindest person on planet Earth, but they also see brother Larry as just a total jerk. And—they see that Mom and Dad like Sarah the best. She can do no wrong in their eyes.

Act 2 covers the speeding chronicle of your young adult years. Before we know it, the curtain rises on Act 3. In this act, the audience sees an older version of the cast from Acts 1 and 2. Mom is still a dominant-but-goodhearted mom. Dad takes his work a bit easier than before, but he’s still just as passive. Larry is still a jerk. And Sarah is still outstanding, impossibly precious, and still the “chosen” child.

Life kind of just works that way. As such, it’s probably wise for you to acknowledge that relationships exhibited in Act 1 of your family play—like them or not—will probably be there in Act 3. While we like to believe we can change, there is truth in the adage, “Some things never change.”

The authors are time and again baffled when we see families ignoring the fact that some things really do never change. For example:

  • Why should a brother expect things and behaviors from his sister even though the sister has never shown competence—or even interest—in doing such a thing or exhibiting such behavior?
  • A son who has always been chronically short of money may not be the best person to hold Dad’s power of attorney.
  • Why should a daughter whose house is a cluttered mess be entrusted to organize Mom’s move to assisted living? She can’t do so.

In short, why, now, in their parents’ later years, would families expect members to shine in an area they never excelled in before?

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