Stories of caring for elderly parents at the end of their lives while trying to maintain a life of your own.

The Value in Junk Mail


Excited at the thought that someone sent me a present, I clawed my way into the dark mailbox hole with feverish hands and sent a pile of bills tumbling to the ground. No sooner had I extracted the large white mail carton than disappointment stomped its steel-toed boot on my big toe. The bane of every mailbox’s existence had done it again. It was just a piece of junk.

Looking at the sample of powdered Similac formula, I was sure it was meant for another […]

A Time to Keep, A Time to Give Away

On what’s typically considered to be the most important day in a young woman’s life, I stood in my long white dress terrified about the vow I was about to take. Then he walked into the room and took my breath away.

Proudly smiling and looking especially handsome in his new navy blue suit, the first man I ever loved engulfed me in his usual bear hug, and asked, “Honey, are you ready?”

“I’m scared,” was all I could utter.

Weaving my arm through his, he interlocked […]

The Old Man and His Girl

I felt my fists curl into a ball as I prepared to cold-cock my father’s caregiver across the face. “What do you mean he’s an old man?” I hissed.

She took my hand and smiled. “Jackie, your dad is 94. He is old.”

Stepping back, I re-evaluated the situation. He was incapable of caring for his basic daily needs. Debilitated by a stroke he had suffered 26 years before, he no longer had the use of his legs and left arm. The aging process had naturally […]

My Inheritance

On the rocky beach of the Russian River in 1987, my four-year-old, Jenni tip-toed over hot, sun-drenched pebbles and darted towards me. Freckles intensified in the brilliant afternoon rays, her moon-shaped face beamed with childish excitement.

“Mommy,” she began, breathlessly. “When you die, can I have that bathing suit?”

Stunned, I studied my second child while tanning my body in a lime green bikini.

How could she be thinking of such things? I wondered. At thirty-four, do I look like I’m close to death?

But peering into her […]

Make No Mistake


After decades of blissful retirement, I recently found myself reviving a career I’d left behind thirty years prior. It was 2011, and I was back to being a DSS, otherwise known as a derriere sanitation specialist. Yes, I was back to changing diapers, only, this time, it wasn’t for a sweet little baby, but instead for my 95-year-old father.

When dad moved in with me in June 2011, I knew there’d be challenges for both of us. For him, it would be his complete loss […]

Wonder & Awe

“Now class, pay attention!” Sister Mary Margaret began authoritatively with Monday’s dissertation on spiritual life. “You must be present to witness God’s wonder and awe.”

In 1964, nuns at St. Charles Grammar School, in San Carlos, had a way of beating a subject (religious or otherwise) into the concrete floors of our upper-level classroom. With a four-foot-long pointer in hand, our teacher walloped her elongated weapon for decorum across her palm as she praised God’s mystical glory.

“How can you be present for something you can’t […]