Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saying Good-Bye to Our Parents : BoomerCafé™ … it's your place

by Joyce Zonana

The mothers of four different friends have died in the past month, and my own mother, 88, has turned her face to the wall.

“I’m finished,” she says when I urge her to join me for a walk in the park that stretches invitingly just outside her windows. “I’ve had enough.” Although The New York Times recently published a story on adventure travel for seniors (90 and hiking in South Africa, 89 and wing-walking across the Atlantic), my mother will have none of it.

“I could do that,” she assures me, “but now I am too tired.”

Ten years ago, when she was 78, my mother had spent a decade nursing my father through his advanced Parkinson’s disease: bathing, dressing, and feeding him devotedly. Until the very end, she sat beside her husband of more than fifty years, urging him to eat, holding spoonfuls of ice cream to his lips, singing, cajoling, clinging to his dwindling presence. After his death, we feared she might fall into despair, but following a year of deep mourning, she rallied – planting a garden, swimming daily, making new friends, and exploring New Orleans, the city she had moved to to be near me.

But now, after relocating in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, her usual fortitude has crumbled. She does not have any major illness, no life-threatening disease, but chronic pain and the beginnings of dementia have debilitated her. A woman who never before buckled in the face of adversity—anti-Semitism in her native Egypt, immigration, privation, a cruel mother-in-law, rebellious American children—she insists her time is over.

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