Friday, June 24, 2011

878 Two Old Firecrackers

878  Old Firecrackers

Two firecrackers of a certain age passed away recently and within a few months of each other.  That certain age was 102.  And the firecrackers were Antoinette Scarpaci and Charlotte Bloomberg.

They didn’t know one another other, probably never heard of each other, though they were kindred spirits in many ways.

But this isn’t really about these two women, as such.  Both were upstanding, active, described variously as “forces of nature,” “feisty,” “blunt-spoken.”  Both came from the no-nonsense school of speaking one’s mind.  And both had children now of an age that would have, in these two women's younger days, be considered “old” --  though not today.

What happens, then, when a parent, usually a mother, climbs into her 80s, 90s and beyond?  What happens is we establish dual relationships.

Our parents are always our parents.  But as we age into our late 60s and 70s, we have a secondary regard for them.  We are always their children, sometimes their “babies.”  But they’re adults and we’re adults and we relate on both levels.

The kinds of discussions we can have with an elderly parent are not the kinds of discussions we could have had all those years ago.  They were raising us.  We were being raised.  Now, ostensibly, we’re all grownups.

Mrs. Scarpaci’s children exceeded their mother’s outer world accomplishments.  One is a respected historian.

Mrs. Bloomberg’s children did likewise and Mike Bloomberg’s story is well known with no recounting necessary here.

Antoinette and Charlotte were still both “mom.” And as “mom,” they had authority.  But each was also someone their kids would readily admit, they’d have been attracted to even if there were no shared genes and blood.  The mother and child relationships become hybrids. “Adult to adult.”

When they go, they are once again “mom.”  Their children are rarely surprised when a parent over the age of 100 dies.  After all, no one lives forever and after 100, death usually signals its approach.  So they’re not surprised.  But they ARE shocked.

And no matter how good the relationship was and on how many levels it lived, there’s always something unsaid left.

So if any of this applies to you, maybe you should speak up now, while you have the chance.

Shrapnel (older persons edition):

--You don’t have to live more than 100 years and you don’t have to be a mother to develop these hybrid relationships.  It often depends on the individuals.  And it doesn’t happen suddenly.

--Mother in law Minna Louis who passed away half a decade ago was in her late 90s.  But looking back, it seems that dual relationship started developing when she was a mere 50-something.

--”Younger” Uncle Kung, a mere 82 is another example.  Guy refuses to accept “this seat reserved for Older People” benches on the subway and helps younger acquired relatives with bad knees across the street.  “Older” Uncle Kung, mid 90s, don’t get around much anymore.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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