It made the Top Ten: Kibud Av v’Eim – Honor Your Father and Mother (coming in at #5, between the commandments about our relationship with God and spirituality, and those about how we treat other people). It made it into the Holiness Code: You shall revere your mother and father (appearing right after God tells Moses to tell us to be holy, kedoshim tehiyu).
The way we treat our parents tells us more about about the character of a person than the words he speaks or the gifts she brings. Looking for a spouse or partner for the long haul? Watch how he or she treats his/her parents. Wondering if you children will treat you well when you get older? Just look in the mirror and observe how you treat your parent(s). After all, we are the role models for our own children.
I call my father every morning (usually at 8:15 a.m., right after I drop the kids off at school). Why? Because he likes hearing what is happening in our lives. Because he enjoys the conversation. Because I love him. Because I want my kids to follow my lead and call me regularly when I get older. And as a small way to repay the debt I owe him because this wonderul man spent his adult life working, stressing, supporting my siblings and me. It is the least Ican do. (Yes, I call my mother also, plenty).
Our Or Ami Center for Jewish Parenting recently gathered adults together for a discussion about how to parent our parents. Those who attended said it was intense, because the emotions surrounding the aging of our parents can be intense.
Can we prepare ourselves for the inevitable process of watching our parents age? How can we hold onto the sacredness of who they are and what they have meant to us? Our congregant Don Weston, 83 and going strong, offers these words of wisdom.
Aging Parents: What Do They Want from Us?
by Or Ami Congregant Don Weston
I am 83 years old and I have two children so I guess that makes me an aging parent. I enjoy talking to people, particularly young people. I ask police officers how the crook business is. That always gets a smile. I talk to bank tellers and ask for samples. That always gets a smile. I talk to anyone and everyone. What I find interesting is the response I get with my closing comment. I generally always end my conversation with a young person with, “Be careful out there and call your mother.” Mostly I get a surprised look and a smile and a comment like, “Okay I will” or, “I haven’t talked to her in awhile” and sometimes just a guilty look. Amazingly, they don’t seem to forget it. If I happen to see them again, they smile and say, “I called my mother.”
I can’t tell you what every parent wants. I believe I can tell you what we don’t want. We don’t want to be left out of the loop, the loop being the family: you, your spouse, our grandchildren, your in-laws, and your friends. Aside from respect, kindness and consideration, we need to know what’s going on in your life. We need to know the little things that happen in our family. How did you do at Mah Jong or poker? What movies have you seen, or what do you have going on for next week? How are the kids doing in school? We need to know that we haven’t been put out to pasture or placed on the back burner. We need to be in touch. Most of all, we don’t want to feel forgotten. At the same time, we don’t want to bother you.
You have a cell phone 24/7 so give us a call, maybe when you’re waiting in line for something. Bring us up-to-date. I kno, I know. You are going to have to hear about a friend’s surgery or how Mrs. Fein slipped and fell in the mall. So what? You forgot how to listen? (The more you talk, the less you will have to listen.) I realize that some of us don’t move into modern times as easily as others, and you’re also going to hear (more than once, I’m afraid), about when gas was 24 cents a gallon, and the comedians were a lot funnier (and a lot cleaner). Okay, okay. So once in a while we slip into “the good old days.” Is that so bad? Then give us some of your good old days.
You have to understand that when the phone rings and we answer and we hear, “Hello Ma (or Mom or Mama or Pa or Pop or Dad or Daddy), it’s your loving daughter (or son),” to us it is like manna from heaven. The back doesn’t hurt as much, the sun is a little brighter, and love is coming through the phone.
Listen, I love to talk, but enough is enough. So be careful out there and call your mother.
When do you fulfill the fifth commandment to honor your father and mother?
How do you keep your relationship going with your mother or father?
As always, I invite you to join the conversation. Leave me a comment. (You may also contact Don Weston by email.)