“Marilyn, take these water jugs downstairs for the fallout shelter.”
“Ok, Mom,” I responded.
What I really wanted to say was, “Mom, it’s dark down there. It smells bad. The black water in the sub pump scares me. And the water is so heavy. Can’t someone else do this, please?” But, of course, as a six or seven-year-old child from the 50’s, I simply did what was asked of me. It was, after all, the era of “Children should be seen and not heard.”
It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mom and Dad did their best to prepare us for what could arrive—a disaster that few could imagine.
At some point in life, we realize that there are things that happen over which we have no control. And if we are wise, we take opportunities to prepare.
Heading home for the holidays is an excellent opportunity to not only enjoy the presence of our families, but to step back, observe, notice. Start with the basics. Is the house warm enough for Mom and Dad? If not, do they have money for the heat bills? Do they have enough food? Do they have the medications they need or do they have to choose between medication and food? Do they need help with cleaning? Are there things in their living environment that could cause a fall? Do they have help keeping the sidewalks and steps clear of ice this winter?
Like the holidays, changes in aging will arrive. Some abruptly, like a fall on a slippery Minnesota winter sidewalk, or slowly, in subtle ways that we see over time. Let the aging people you love know that you are listening. Try to see what they are seeing. And then, in your kindest and most supportive way, assist them in problem solving.
Aging does not have to become a crisis. As my parents taught me, we can listen and prepare.
Why not give the gift of listening this holiday season? I would love to hear what you are doing to help prepare an aging parent, friend or neighbor to get through some of their aging concerns this coming winter.
*The song, “Do you Hear What I Hear?” by Noel Rëgney and Gloria Shayne Baker was written in 1962 in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I joined my classmates in singing it at my first Christmas pageant at Holy Cross School in Onamia, Minnesota when I was six.
Marilyn (Mayr) Boros, RDN, LD lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.