Taking care of one’s parents

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I’m taking care of my mom. My grandparents are from Eastern Europe, but my parents were born in the USA. We are Americanized, in most ways. Still, I am taking care of my mom.

Here is an immigrant take on the subject:

My husband and I never really discussed the fact that I’d be supporting my parents. It was just a given. I never hid anything. I was open about the fact that my parents had no money. They speak second-grade-level English. I’m their only child. I need to take care of them. It’s nonnegotiable.

We’ve been married for three years now, and he’s really perfect for me. If I’m happy, he’s happy. He doesn’t mind the way I want to live — he just goes along with it. He understands the struggles that my family has been through, even though he can’t relate to them personally. His own parents have saved enough for their own retirement, and he had an all-American childhood — karate lessons, camp, nice schools. I like to live vicariously through it. I tell him to share stories with me about his childhood, so that I can imagine I was there. Like the time he did a front flip off the kitchen table and broke his leg. I love that. I couldn’t break my leg as a kid — if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the hospital or anything. Oh, and the Christmases. A Christmas tree! I never had a Christmas until I met him, and that first Christmas was so special for me. For them, it was routine. I was like, “This is so cool!”

I once had a conversation with my husband about how if I died, he’d have to keep taking care of my parents. It’s a dark topic, I know, and he wasn’t thrilled about the idea. But he wouldn’t kick them out. They’d have nowhere to go. And supporting my parents is not that hard. They have Medicare and Social Security, and they’re so frugal that they don’t need much.

….

My dad is now retired, and when my mom retires she’ll move in with us too. The plan is to give them this house eventually, and get our own nearby. Living with them is not ideal. They’re from a completely different generation, and they’re not Americanized. They have very different belief systems. Like, they don’t believe in antibiotics or certain types of medicine. They aren’t tolerant of certain other ways of life. It’s difficult sometimes. They’re not the kind of parents that you want to hang out with and have them help raise your kids. We argue a lot about how to do things.

There’s this perception that taking care of your parents is just an immigrant thing, but I think that’ll change soon. A lot of aging Americans are not financially stable, and they’ll have to depend on their kids — my peers. But still, no one talks about it. It’s like being on the Titanic — shouldn’t we be discussing this huge iceberg ahead of us?

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