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A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age

by Judy Kramer

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-57322-163-5
Publisher: Riverhead

Based on the Gazette columns she wrote, Washington, D.C., journalist Kramer offers a moving and informative guide to a journey more and more Americans with aging parents must eventually take as they help them navigate their way through the end zone.

Kramer began writing about her parents when she realized that they needed her help. Both in their 80s, their increasing health problems meant that they could no longer live alone, and the author had to help them move into a nursing home. In sections entitled “Afternoon,” “Evening,” “Night,” “Dawn,” and “Morning,” she describes the grim realities as well as the surprisingly joyous rewards of having to become your own parents’ parent. At a time in life when her own relationship with her children was changing—she is married and has three adult children—she perceptively notes the ways these changes conflicted and imposed new demands on the family, her marriage, and her professional life. She also describes the practical help she gave her parents by paying bills, dealing with Medicaid, buying favorite toiletries, and (for Mother’s Day) making a much-appreciated large-print telephone book for her mother, who was having difficulty reading. But she inevitably had to confront emotionally freighted issues as her parents’ health continued to decline and she had to discuss funeral arrangements and living wills with them. She frankly acknowledges how old resentments and disappointments about her relations with them continued to distress her, but she also describes loving and close moments she shared with them that eased her grieving when they died and helped her to move on.

A must-read travel book, especially for those embarking on the same journey Kramer so truthfully and helpfully records.