Column: The Passing Scene
By: Dennis M. Patrick
Date: May 20, 2022
Memorial to My Parents
Memorial Day traditionally honors the memory of the deceased men and women who served in the US military. Over the years the holiday expanded to include anyone we wish to memorialize. In my case, my father was a career military man who served in WWII in the South Pacific and in Korea during the war while my mother, as a good soldier’s wife, kept the home fires burning.
I made the following observations a few years ago, but they are worth noting again this Memorial Day.
That parents influence their kids, for better or for worse, is an understatement. Sometimes they intentionally impart life’s lessons; sometimes they come inadvertently. How parents behave is as instructive as what they say. By setting the example my parents unconsciously pointed the way without realizing it. That’s how I came to understand one of life’s great takeaways.
“Plan ahead” my folks would say. “If you have a plan, you’ll know where you’re going and how to get there.” That was my father’s axiom and he lived it. Have a plan. Then follow it. You can always adjust, but you must start with a plan.
For the most part, my folks were great planners. They had a plan for everything. For family travel, they had a plan. For the holidays, they had a plan. It seemed for any occasion, they had a plan.
Growing through the teen years into adulthood, I emulated my folks. They served as role models whether I accepted it or not. I saw in my parents the epitome of organization. They had a plan to finance their retirement. They had a plan to administer their estate after departing this world. Was their penchant for planning a noble effort, or a compulsion? I believe it to be the former.
Then, one day to my surprise, and in spite of their punctiliousness, they came up short. I’m sure this was an oversight. I was taken aback by what they had failed to consider. Meticulous in their financial provision for retirement and specific in their wishes after passing on, they nevertheless expressed no vision of what would happen between the start of retirement and the end of life. It’s as if those years of life would be frozen in time. The result was a huge circumstantial gap occurring in their late years.
The more I observe the over-sixty crowd, the more I am convinced this circumstantial gap is common among senior citizens. Why so? Maybe this comes as denial born of fear in dealing with the reality of a slow decline in life. It’s not easy to acknowledge mental and physical decline after living a fast-paced life. My folks lived good lives, but the older they grew inevitable changes took place. Imperceptible at first, the changes crept in. Don’t we all have an aversion to thinking about the unthinkable? “It-won’t-happen-to-me” attitude takes hold ignoring reality. I watched my parents skirmish with their age bereft of a “plan.” They slowly became less capable of making wise decisions and managing routine tasks.
There’s more to the “golden years” than having long term care insurance. There are real issues that each person must contend with. Where will you reside in the waning years? Near children? Have you discussed it with them? Is it fair for you to satellite on them unannounced? Or, is it more appropriate to reside in an assisted living facility?
Who will handle your financial matters when you can no longer deal with numbers, balance a checkbook, or make sense of a financial statement? Who do you trust to make these decisions for you?
Who will tend to your medical appointments and medications when your memory fades? Is that person reliable?
Who will shop for groceries when you can no longer drive? Who will prepare your meals?
Is it fair to presume your kids will do the job if you haven’t explicitly discussed these matters with them? Is it wise to trust your kids to intuitively do the right things without talking to them?
Or, maybe you would rather not think about this. Just let things happen and take your chances.
I learned my lesson from my folks’ unspoken example. Conclusion? Finish the plan and deal with the inevitable now while there is time. For this I am grateful and am resolved to avoid falling into the same deceptive scenario.
A final thought. In the end, literally, an abiding faith in your Creator and His provision for a Savior transcends all. Such faith serves best if nurtured in life, not left to the end. Think about that.
Learning to follow through in life will come as much by observing others and what they do — or don’t do — as by what they say. In this sense, my folks were great teachers.
Happy Memorial Day!
Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at email@example.com.