Help Aging Parents: I Just Called to Say I Love You

The flight back to NY will soon take off. Cell phones are active. One last conversation before we’re told to turn off all electronic devices–“anything with an on-off button,” says the flight attendant.  “I love you” seems a popular ending to the conversations. I’m thinking younger people use that expression a lot….sometimes so often that it seems to me its meaning is diluted, and I wonder how much it really means.

In the olden days it meant the world. Think Stevie Wonder and the popularity of the song whose title heads this post….. it continues: “and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” I’m sitting on the plane for over 4 hours. My thoughts turn to aging parents, grandparents and elderly friends and I wonder how often they hear those–to their generation– tender words, especially when they live alone.

And then I think about care facilities and the “honeys” and the “sweeties” which clearly aren’t delivered in the empowering affectionate terms younger people experience. (If you’ve been reading my blog you know I find those terms diminishing, not endearing, to older people.)

So perhaps we should phone some elderly friends when we have unaccounted-for time and let them know how much we value them. We all know it’s important for older people to stay connected and I think it’s safe to say the elderly don’t receive that many compliments–or–what we used to call– “strokes.” And doesn’t a phone call show we really care? And doesn’t that make people feel good?  I know lonesome older people often talk and talk–and it’s much longer than we’d like; but that just proves how important the phone call is.

(….I’m recalling my father’s mother–an aging, small-of-stature, grandma-looking woman who would always tell us about any compliment she received.  I was a little girl then and it seemed strange that she would tell us about a compliment. In retrospect, it was obviously important to her–may have been one of the best things–or the best thing–that happened for her that week…)

My last thought is about the unconditional love from pets. R has said many times she’d love to have a pet again but at 98 she “doesn’t want to take on more responsibilities.” I get home very late tonight. She’ll be my first call in the morning.


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