Seder: The O’Learys, the Steins, 99 1/2-year-old R, Us + 47 others–continued

The fact that R wanted to attend James’s family’s Seder was a surprise. It was made even more surprising because R rarely made plans to go out two nights in a row (and we had previous plans to have dinner together the night preceding the Seder). And Seders are intergenerational–children of all ages. So there’s lots of energy. That said, R wanted to keep our Sunday night dinner date and go to the Seder the following night.

The street by James’s son’s home was filled with cars. We were let out in front.  At the exact moment we closed the car door so my husband could take the car in search of a parking place, James came down the long walkway from the house as if on cue. Greetings and hugs all around and a lot of conversation preceded our walk to the front door.

Once inside the house James’s daughter-in-law’s mother introduced herself and warmly greeted us. Then James’s wife appeared–another warm greeting as we were ushered through the house and out the back door to a patio and yard filled tables. (We’re obviously in a warm part of the U.S.) Our table had a red table-cloth–and one white straight-back chair for R.  (All other chairs were the rental, metal collapsible kind.) R’s seat was at the side of the table closest to the buffet and also offered a view of all tables. Obviously extra efforts had been made for R.

After being seated at the table well before the Seder began, R never got up and was never alone. I think we knew three of the 54 people there. But everyone knew James, who immediately sat down across from R and introduced her to everyone who came over to greet him.

While seated, but before the meal begins, Seders follow a prescribed script with guests–children and adults–taking turns reading certain passages in the traditional Haggadah (Passover prayer book). While the host (who was the leader) explained no one was required to read, neither R, nor any other adult, nor the children missed their turn–and R’s voice came through appropriately loud and clear (and she wore no glasses).

Throughout the meal R was constantly engaged–listening attentively, really interested and, as usual, sharing wisdom interspersed with up-to-date knowledge and always-interesting olden-days memories. During dessert and after, R was involved in thoughtful conversation with people she just met. And when we finally said our “Goodbyes,” (my husband and I were exhausted, not R) only  James, his wife, his daughter-in-law and his son remained.

4 Lessons Learned and 1 Observation will follow Saturday

Aging/Elderly Parents: Self-Esteem-Vulnerable

Weddings and bridal showers are usually intergenerational events. The celebratory feeling during that time gives old and young the opportunity to easily interact, sharing–for a brief period–a happy commonality.

My friend’s mother–86, independent and in-charge–had a diminishing experience, however, at an intergenerational event–her granddaughter’s bridal shower. It was an interaction even my sensitive friend, Katy (a perfect aging parent’s daughter) couldn’t have anticipated.

After the shower, on the way home, she remarked to Katy (who sat far from her mother at the shower) that she was upset. Why? A “young girl” (in her early twenties, actually) came over, introduced herself, sat down, and they had “a really nice conversation” until the end when the “girl”–getting ready to leave–said: “I really enjoyed talking with you, Gran.”

“Gran.” Katy’s mother was crest-fallen. “Gran:”a name even her grandchildren didn’t use. No explanation or rationalization that this was probably the endearing term the “girl” used with her own grandmother, could erase the negative effect of one no doubt well-intentioned word…a word that diminished a grandmother who considered herself (and was) a “with-it,” normal woman–not an old lady. This sensitivity even surprised sensitive Katy.

It’s hard to get into the head of older people. Indeed the above may seem trivial. Yet with-it aging parents who don’t consider themselves old, hope others don’t either. The way we see ourselves, self-image, obviously affects how we act and how we age.

Although we try our best to help parents age well, we can’t protect them from everything.  When we have a relationship with our parents that allows them to share unpleasant experiences, we’ve “done good.” Instead of offering possible rationalizations/explanations, perhaps acknowledging the feeling (hurt, diminished) then reinforcing elderly parents’ self-esteem with a laundry list (or shorter) of experiences affirming “young-old,” or being “with it” can soften the blow.

For common subtle (and less subtle) diminishing interactions that we might–or might not–notice, click my August post: https://helpparentsagewell.com/2011/08/03/inadvertently-diminishing-aging-parents/

Aging/Elderly Parents: Self-Esteem–Vulnerable

Weddings and bridal showers are usually intergenerational events. The celebratory feeling during that time gives old and young the opportunity to easily interact, sharing–for a brief period– a commonality most of us have experienced.  

My friend’s mother–86, independent and in-charge–had a diminishing experience at her granddaughter’s bridal shower, an experience even my friend, Katy (a perfect aging parent’s daughter) couldn’t have anticipated.

After the shower, on the way home, she remarked to Katy (who sat far from her mother at the shower) that she was upset. Why? A “young girl” (actually an adult in her early twenties) came over, introduced herself, sat down, and they had “a really nice conversation” until the end when the “girl”–getting ready to leave–said: “I really enjoyed talking with you, Gran.” 

“Gran.” Katy’s mother was crest-fallen. “Gran:”a name even her grandchildren didn’t use. No explanation or rationalization that this was probably the endearing term the “girl” used with her own grandmother, could erase the negative effect of one no doubt well-intentioned word…a word that diminished a grandmother who considered herself (and was) a “with-it,” normal woman–not an old lady. This sensitivity even surprised sensitive Katy.

It’s hard to get into the head of older people; indeed the above may seem trivial. Yet with-it aging parents who don’t consider themselves old hope others don’t either. The way we feel about ourself, self-esteem, occupies the list of important factors for aging well (along with independence, decent health and connections [friends]).

We try our best to help aging parents. Clearly we can’t protect them from everything.  When we have a relationship with our parents that allows them to share unpleasant experiences, we’ve “done good.” Instead of offering a possible rationalization, perhaps acknowledging the feeling (hurt, diminished) then reinforcing elderly parents’ self-esteem with a laundry list (or shorter) of experiences affirming “young-old,” or being “with it” can soften the blow.      

For common subtle (and less subtle) diminishing interactions that we might–or might not–notice, click my August post: https://helpparentsagewell.com/2011/08/03/inadvertently-diminishing-aging-parents/