(Names And Situations Changed As Requested)
Moshe, in N.Y., gets a call from his father in Chicago. “Son, I can’t take it any more. I’m divorcing your mother. I’ve had enough. It’s over.”
“Pa, don’t do anything,” said Moshe. “Let me call my sister in L.A., and I’ll get right back to you. Promise me you won’t do anything till we talk again.”
Ten Minutes later, Moshe calls back. “Pa, Rachel and I are coming out to see you. Wait till we talk before you decide anything. OK?” Moshe’s father agrees, hangs up the phone and looks affectionately at his wife. “Nu…Sadaleh. The children are coming for Pesach. What we’ll do Rosh Hashana, I don’t know.”
The loneliness that comes for parents, especially around the holidays, once their children grow up and leave home is quite common among my generation. I once saw a cartoon in a secular newspaper around Thanksgiving. The first picture showed a large family, parents and children, sitting happily around their holiday dinner. The parents are smiling and saying, “May G-d bless all who sit here”; the next frame showed the grandparents. There were just the two of them sitting at their holiday dinner, at a very large table, looking sad and lonely. The caption: “May G-d bless all those who sat here”.
We raise our children, help them grow and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Many children, once married, often move far away from their parents. First they visit often, usually alternating Yomim Tovim (holidays) between his parents and hers. But, as their children are born and their family grows, visiting the parents and making long distance trips becomes difficult and expensive. Visits from our children become less frequent, as they follow their dream careers and get involved in their own lives and those of their children. Still, we are happy for their successes, give them encouragement when they are down and continue to support them to follow their dreams.
With time, the phone calls become less frequent. The holidays and every Shabbos we spend alone become a normal part of our lives. Yet, we continue in our support of their choices despite the loneliness. We feel this is right and how it should be, and we let our children fly. But what happens when the tables are turned and it is the parents who finally decide to follow their dreams?
Aviva passed away after fighting her chronic illness for several years. During that time, her husband Irv rarely left her alone. He nursed her, encouraged her and cared for her until the end. Two years later, Irv met a woman. She too, was alone. They seemed to hit it off from the start. They made each other feel alive and forget the pain of the past. Shortly after they met, they married. Both Irv and his new wife, Chaya, had always wanted to live in Israel. Commitments and family obligations had always stood in the way. Now, both retired, they decided to pursue their dream and make aliyah.
Their children were horrified. Irv’s son felt totally deserted. Not only had he lost his mother to illness just a short time ago, but now his dad was moving thousands of miles away. They would only see him once a year, if that. The grandchildren wouldn’t know their Zaidy. Zaidy would no longer be involved in their daily lives to witness the grandchildren’s milestones. How well did he know Chaya, anyway? He felt his dad was making a terrible mistake.
Chaya and Irv were surprised at their children’s reaction. They had both always encouraged their children to follow their dreams; were they not entitled to do the same in their golden years? Just as surprising to the couple, was the reaction of many of their friends. The weekly get-together with friends that had been a routine for the couple before they married no longer existed. The friends missed it, felt abandoned, and they too thought this sudden move to Israel was a mistake. Some even questioned the wisdom of the marriage.
The issue is not an easy one. I can certainly understand the desire of Irv and Chaya to pursue their dreams in their twilight years. They had always put their children’s wants and needs first and their dreams lasts. Theirs could always come later. But how many “laters” did they have left? Haven’t Irv and Chaya earned the right to pursue their dreams and finally do what they have always dreamed of doing? Yet, I can also understand and sympathize with their children. They feel that they want their parents to continue to be present in their lives on a daily basis, and be close to their grandchildren. They want them to be the teachers and models and be there, as the daily heads of the family for help and council, as they were in the past. What do you think? Let me know your feelings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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