How Much Support to Give Aging Parents

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How much support do we baby boomers give our aging parents? Wendy Reichental looks back and thinks, not enough … especially when (excuse the pun) the support her late mother needed was about shoes!

Wendy Reichental

It’s strange, but it’s when I try to go shopping that I’m reminded of how much I miss my mother. Shopping was something she and I did so frequently that going by myself now seems somewhat unnatural and unnecessary.

You see, my mom and I were true shopaholics. Of course we would never concede to this…we preferred instead to liken our activity to a high-impact retail workout! We would walk up and down every aisle in a store, ensuring we got our full cardio benefits, and because we never liked to try anything on, we would go back the next day to do our returns, thus burning additional calories and further exercising our wallets! Looking back, I have no regrets for what we did because those times we shared together were special and, while not cheap, priceless.

There is one thing from these memories that has been haunting and gnawing away at me lately. Often on these shopping expeditions, my mom and I would part ways and meet up in the shoe department. The reason was, it was the one place where there was someplace to sit so my mom could take a shopping break and rest her feet. And in a happy coincidence, it was also appropriate because my mom never met a pair of shoes she didn’t like. I would find her in the shoe department, not resting, but trying on a pair of running shoes that looked like something Justin Bieber would swagger around in today.

Dyna

But that was my mom. She never equated her age with a certain senior standard. She loved her bold colors and patterns. The skullcaps and daggers that splashed across a pair of flat runners was not by any means a problem… for her. And my mom would always have that same giddy expression, as she glanced towards me for my opinion. Because I wasn’t sure that this type of footwear was befitting someone my mom’s age (we’re talking eighties!) who had recently suffered a hip fracture, I always wore the same exasperated look: total dismay and disapproval! I thought she should be wearing orthopedic-type shoes, something with a high arch that would offer her nothing but comfort and support.

Then just a few weeks ago, my husband and I were out shopping for some much-needed walking shoes. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for; all I knew was that I wanted a funky pair of runners that would not give me blisters or bleeding heels. We went to the popular Shoe Depot and within minutes, my husband and I both found something we liked. He was trying on a pair of maroon-colored running shoes that were totally out of his conservative zone. He looked at me and wondered what I thought. I thought he looked fabulous, and so youthful. But somehow he didn’t believe me, so we stopped a barely 17-year-old sales clerk and asked what he thought. I asked straight out if my husband was too old (now we’re talking late forties) to be wearing this style of shoe?

The kid clerk chuckled and said something so profound, I might tie-dye it on a T-shirt. What he said was, my husband’s not too old because “a fun shoe fits all ages.” And in that moment it hit me: why couldn’t I have said those same words to my mom? Why couldn’t I just have told her that she looked great and maybe got one in my size too!?! Why couldn’t I just have endorsed her choices, why was I so concerned about age “appropriateness?” There is no age limit on shoes or….and this is the lesson here…on anything else that makes someone feel happy, good, or young.
 

13 Comments

  1. There is not a one among us, Wendy, that doesn’t have regrets about treatment of loved ones. It is the treatment in aggregate that matters most. Get some yellow shoes!

  2. I completely agree, Wendy. During of my favorite Simpsons episodes, “Bart’s Inner Child”, (Season 5), the people of Springfield were told by a popular psychologist to “do what they feel” regardless of age. While much hilarity ensued when certain characters abandoned their important responsibilities, the deeper message was well-received. That said, you probably should put your foot down when your husband brings home a skateboard…

  3. Wendy,

    Your mother is a true inspiration. It is rare to find individuals who are true to themselves and who aren’t afraid to be unique. Most people try to conform to the “norm”. I aspire to be like your mom and love hearing about how creative and free-spirited she was. What is nice to hear is that despite what others her age did she remained genuine to her tastes. I bet your mom already knew that your opinions on shoe fashion differed but even though she still wanted to implicate you in her decision making. Regardless, I am pretty sure your mom already had her mind made up to buy the shoes she had her heart set on (even before she asked you) so don’t worry too much about it :) You are gem –just like your mom.

  4. The key to happiness is fun, and fun can come in many different forms and activities. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” Your mom surely found much happiness walking with you and you probably inspired her with tidbits of your wisdom which she very much appreciated yet have been forgotten in the mists of the mall’s corridors.

  5. What a great memory. Thanks for sharing it.
    It’s so easy to get wrapped up in “appropriate-ness” that sometimes we need a reminder that it’s not important. Thanks for that reminder.

  6. Your mom was a true individual. She surely enjoyed life and practiced her many talents. One never let go of the wonderful memories and the special times that are spent with our moms. You just look back fondly and smile when a particular ‘episode’ comes to mind. I would imagine that wherever she is right now, she’s running around wearing purple shoes splattered with sparkles. Memories don’t wear out… shoes do!

  7. I have read a few stories by Wendy but I must admit I have liked this one even more. It reminded me of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, with its main character realizing how wrong he had been all along when he thought one’s age should dictate one’s behaviour and that, to paraphrase another great movie, the problems we have “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world“. Keep them coming, Wendy!

  8. Like the song said “Nothing really matters but the love you bring”. The fondest memories will, of course, always emanate from the unscripted acts of love, spur of the moment journeys, out of your comfort zone rendez-vous’and random acts of kindness.

    What a wonderful story. Carpe diem y’all.

  9. Wendy has done it again…with heart and truth and honest love.

    I always look forward to reading articles by Wendy, but it is not something that can be rushed through. I always give it the proper setting and time, and opportunity to not be disturbed because I know that Wendy’s words will always be raw, heartfelt and “normal” – and these were.

    And yes, we should all live by that lesson…if you are not hurting anyone…wear those shoes! Live for today!

    Thank you Wendy for reminding us.

  10. Thanks Wendy – Love the photo of Dyna strumming a guitar….did she ever wear cowboy boots? I can just see her in dancing sneakers beaming down with love upon her daughters — keep up her creative spirit…
    Blessings….

  11. Hi Wendy,

    Once again you have written a most heartwarming and interesting vignette of something that evidently has touched a nerve within you. With your usual dash of humor you have described a situation that we can all relate to…either with an elderly parent that we’ve tried to steer to our point of view on what we deem to be appropriate apparel for their age or god forbid where we’ve been the victim of someone else telling us that we should act our age and wear something more appropriate!

    As always I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading a piece of yours…keep up the good work!

  12. I wish the clerk said “a fun shoe fits all ages” to me when I tried on those hot pink and really comfortable athletic shoes recently.
    More than that, sadly I wish I had said it when my mother liked trying out those reddish tints in her hair.  It’s not just shoes, fun suits all ages.
    Wendy, your stories connect to what really matters
    Sophia
     

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