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

Easter, Passover Miracles and Opportunities to Help Parents Age Well (updated 2012)

Holiday Thoughtfulness and Aging Parents
Peter Cotton Tail Garden Basket

A small bunny peaks out from under a flowered hat at bottom left of this spring basket, made by my friend. Wouldn’t it bring joy to an aging parent or to a senior in a care facility?

2012   Passover: April 6-14      Easter: April 8

We celebrate miracles: The Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting. The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion. Older generations fondly recall traditions that brought family members together: Passover with Seders and children looking for the hidden matzo; Easter with church services, children’s Easter egg hunts, and a special Easter meal. The timing of Passover and Easter are inextricably linked. The Last Supper was a Passover Sedar.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people living alone, without children to visit or invitations to partake in family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:

Attending Easter services together, then…
…dining at a place with beautiful surroundings that make the outing special
…going to a restaurant in town where aging parents who don’t get out much can take a short walk (walker? wheelchair?), window shop, enjoy seeing normal activity
…having a meal at home with family–togetherness, conversation, participation…

…When the Easter meal is at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute.

Ditto for Passover. One of our Senior Advisors says proudly that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Seder. Not easy at 89.  She says she was able “to work it out so I could make everything ahead.” And best of all perhaps for her, “It was a good feeling because everyone wanted to take some home and there wasn’t anything left.”

Passover Sedars follow a prescribed ritual– usually at home with family and often invited guests.  Yet there were no children to look for the traditional hidden matzo at a Sedar on the West Coast last year. What to do? Creative thinking perpetuated the tradition.

The oldest guests were sent on the hunt. And an excited 86-year-old found the matzo. While not traditional, life today with children and grandchildren living near is not the same as in times past. Adapting is the name of the game for holidays (and so much else).

And last but not least, what about the frail, isolated elderly who can’t get out easily? A visit is welcome and bringing little gifts, while unnecessary, is always a pick-me-up.  Suggestions:

…Bring… a little lunch or snack (“nothing big,” I’m told) to share while you talk (consider dietary restrictions if known)
…a few holiday decorated cookies or cupcakes
…an easy-care living plant–possibilities: (philodendron [sweetheart plant], fern [nephrolepis], spathiphyllum [peace lilly–wallisi variety] or kalanchoe)
…a flowering plant for a sunny indoor spot or patio
…a bouquet of flowers
…allergies a problem, what about a basket like the one above?

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles, giving older people something to look forward to is a gift–a gift that contributes to helping parents and elders age well–especially at holiday time.