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

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 […]

A Precious Gift

“Hi, Father Warwick!” I sang, tapping his shoulder from behind. I was attending the St. Simon Parish Barbeque in September 2012, an event I hadn’t participated in for over twelve years.

Beaming from ear-to-ear with his welcoming smile, the pastor hugged me tightly. Then, his grin turned to a quizzical look as if something was out of place. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

Stunned, I wondered why he would say such a thing. After all, I’d been a member of this lovely parish for […]

Forever the Child

“Now, Jackie,” my father began. “Remember to put the exact date in the upper right hand corner of the check. And, when you write the dollar amount on the second line, make sure it’s legible.”

Frustrated to hear this yet again, I did as I was told, biting my tongue. My mother always taught to be respectful to my elders, but sometimes he made it impossible.

“And don’t forget to put a stamp on the envelope.”

As I sucked in a deep breath, I released an exasperated […]

Getting Ready

Standing at the door to my bedroom, my father stood in his dark blue suit tapping his foot while staring at his sixteen-year-old daughter. “Jackie, hurry up. We’re going to be late,” he ordered.

In the Madden family, punctuality was right up there with perfect manners and good hygiene. We were never allowed to be late for anything. Being tardy for school, church, or dinner, was equivalent to a mortal sin. It was a sign of disrespect and punishable with near death, or at the […]

Saying Goodbye

Selling real estate, even in the best of circumstances, is an emotional process. I’ve always had a deep respect for my clients who were letting go of a family home, though I never fully understood the complexities of that process until recently.

When my 95-year-old father moved in with me, I gained both a roommate and acquired a realtor’s prize possession, a listing. Upon his arrival, he announced that he wanted me to sell his house, which was also my childhood home. I knew it […]

Making Peace

As I walked into my house after a lovely vacation in the Tahoe Mountains, I was hit with the putrid smell of old age. It was a heavy, rancid odor a musty basement emits when full of decaying remnants of a life long gone by. This mixed with the wafting stench of wet, dirty diapers made me want to vomit, turn around, and run away.

Since my 95-year-old father moved in with me, my life and home have been completely turned upside down. Freedom to […]