Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
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 email@example.com.
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All of us wish to act in kind, compassionate and intelligent ways. We all wish to build character.
When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.
Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.
Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.
I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.
Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.
Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.
Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.
Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/pursuing-your-dreams-is-there-an-age-limit/2006/06/28/
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