I would do it all over again: Dealing with Aging Parents

My parents would have celebrated their 82nd anniversary on August 20. In honor of their memory, I am publishing this article which was first published in The Jewish World on January 15, 2015.

When my parents moved up from Florida to Coburg Village in 2005, we knew they were settling into a place that offered them independence and the kind of life they wanted to lead. As it was only four miles from our home, Larry and I, as well as my siblings, had peace of mind knowing we were close enough to be there when they needed us and to watch over their physical and emotional health. At times, however, providing that oversight was not easy.

Every Sunday, Larry and I had a standing date with my parents to go out to eat at a local restaurant. Mom’s favorite choice was a Chinese buffet as she loved spareribs and anything fried. Dad said he preferred Italian, although his choices in those restaurants were sometimes more McDonalds than mangiare bene. He once insisted on our driving to an Italian restaurant in Schenectady in the dead of winter and proceeded to order minestrone soup and chicken nuggets.

One week, on the advice of friends, we decided to take them to Verdile’s, a landmark Italian restaurant in Troy. As was the custom, Larry and I picked them up in the front of their building. I helped my father get into the front passenger seat, helped my mother get into the back seat behind Dad, and took my place behind Larry. Larry put the car in gear and headed to our destination. Around two miles down the road, my father said, “Oh, damn! I forgot my teeth!”

“We’ll turn around and get them,” offered Larry.
“That’s okay,” said Dad. “I can just gum my food.”
Larry ignored him and turned the car around.
When we got back to Coburg, I took my parents’ keys, went through he foyer, ran up the stairs to their second-floor apartment, unlocked the door, grabbed a set of dentures out of a bowl in the bathroom, wrapped them in a paper towel, relocked the door, and headed back to the car.

“Thanks, Marilyn,” said Dad, as he started putting them into his mouth. A second later, he yelled, “Hey! These aren’t my teeth!”

“Oh, they must be mine!” Mom chimed in from the back seat. “I forgot them, too! Hand them back, Bill!”

As Mom was getting her bridge into her mouth, I went back to the apartment, found the second bowl with Dad’s teeth on the bathroom vanity, and ran back to the car. Now that all the dentures were in place, we were ready to complete our trip to Verdile’s.

All was fairly quiet for a couple of miles. “I read an interesting article in Consumer Reports this week about one of my prescription medicines,” Dad piped up. “You know how I am always having to run to the bathroom? Well, that’s one of the side effects of one of the damn pills I have to take.”

“You have congestive heart failure, Dad,” I said. “Your doctor put you on diuretics to prevent fluid from building up in your lungs. You’ve landed in the Ellis Hospital emergency room three times since you moved here when you failed to take them.”

“Well, the heck with all these doctors!” said Dad. “I am tired of constantly having to pee. I’ve decided to stop taking them. Haven’t swallowed any of those suckers for four days!”

I immediately conjured up in my mind another ambulance ride for Dad and another lost day of work for me. Meanwhile, I thought Larry was going to drive off the road.

Mom patted my hand and whispered to me, “I’ll take care of this, sweetheart. Don’t worry.” By the time we got to the restaurant, all four of us were on edge, hungry, and ready for a good dinner. Fortunately, Verdile’s lived up to its reputation. Our pasta-based meals were delicious, and the staff was friendly, kind and accommodating. Judging from the demographics of the people sitting around the room, the staff in the restaurant was obviously used to serving senior citizens.

As our waiter cleared the table before he brought coffee, my mother popped out her bridge and wrapped it in a napkin. Although I was used to this in our own homes, I was a little grossed out that she was doing it in public. I also worried she’d lose the bridge—an expensive proposition.

I started to stammer an explanation and warning to the waiter. “Err…please don’t take the napkin. My mother’s teeth are in it.”

He broke out in a big smile. “Don’t worry! We’re used to that here. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to do a dumpster dive for a set of false teeth or a hearing aid!”

We drank our coffee, paid the bill, and drove my parents back to Coburg Village. The next day, I called my mother, and she assured me that Dad was back on his water pills.

“Thanks for dinner, Marilyn,” Mom said. “Dad and I really enjoyed our afternoon with the two of you. We’ll have to come up with another fun place to eat next Sunday.”

“Sure, Mom,” I said aloud. “Let’s do that!” In my mind, however, I was thinking, ‘Let’s just make it less exciting.’

The four of us enjoyed many more Sunday outings until my father’s passing in November 2008. Larry and I kept up the tradition with my mother until her death in March 2011. To this day, despite the misplaced teeth, the medical revelations, and the not-so-healthy Chinese buffets, we fondly remember those Sunday dinners we shared with Mom and Dad.

6 thoughts on “I would do it all over again: Dealing with Aging Parents

  1. Ruth Kiflawi

    I loved this story the first time I read it, and enjoyed it just as much now.  Ruth

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Reply
  2. Debbie

    I laughed out loud at this one, Marilyn!

    It reminded me of an experience with my mom after her cataract surgery. She was prescribed eye drops. My sister and I faithfully called her 3 times a day to make sure that she was using the drops. When I took her to a follow-up appointment a week later, the ophthalmologist asked why she wasn’t using the eye drops he had prescribed. “I do!” she said as she demonstrated how she put the drops in her right eye. He then said “Mary Jane, we did surgery on your left eye, not the right!” My sister and I hadn’t considered that in our reminder calls!

    It’s easy to laugh, but I’m guessing this acorn didn’t fall far from my maternal tree. Fun times ahead!

    Reply
  3. marilynmartynuk

    Bill and I had a good chuckle over this story! It brings up those special memories of the last times I was with my parents. For me it was the closeness of watching curling on TV-I always seem to be there during curling season…M

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply

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