Friday, May 26, 2006

When Your Parents Need Your Help

For the past several months as I've watched a client struggle with trying to keep his world together as it was clearly falling apart, the sadness I felt was acute. He's a proud man and has not only spent his years taking care of himself, but he's put himself out there, giving in abundance to others whose needs he felt were greater. The great irony is that he made it through the challenges of raising a family on a limited budget, of finding space for everyone (including the dogs) in a place that was ready to burst at the seams, of standing by and nursing his wife through the years of her decline, only to find himself in his later years unable to handle the increasing costs of living on Long Island.

This man, as so many others like him, lives on a fixed income. He stretches his dollars as far as they'll possibly go. When I first met him it was in the dead of winter. Sitting in his perfectly maintained kitchen, talking about his plans for the future, the time just passed. I was suddenly aware of how cold I felt. He wore a sweater over his shirt, I had on a heavy winter coat . . . and I was freezing. It was later that I found out he had to make choices and heating his house comfortably wasn't an option.

As I got to know him better, I realized that he wouldn't ask for help for himself. He suffered in silence. This man who had raised four children couldn't bring himself to tell them just how bad his world had gotten. When at long last there was no other choice, he called upon them. They must have seen the signs, I was a stranger and I did. Take a long look at your own parents. Have they changed, become more remote, do you talk to them less? Pay attention, they may never tell you they're in need.

This story has what I hope is a happy ending. He finally got out from under the burden of a home he no longer needed and couldn't afford. The rising taxes and escalating costs drove him out, but he's off to start a new adventure with some money in his pocket and an onerous burden lifted. I pray for his future.

Author: Geri Sonkin


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