Monday, December 1, 2008

Watching Mom and Dad grow old; more sons are stepping forward to provide care and love

The bittersweet part of Thanksgiving gatherings for families last week was watching Mom and Dad move just a little slower and remember a little bit less.

We remember them when they were giants, vibrant, the pillars of our play and moments of our peril. Now we face the prospect of what we -- as their older children -- will do when they can't care for themselves like they did for us decades earlier.

Yesterday's New York Times featured a most poignant trend piece about the emergence of men as caregivers for their parents. In 1996, 16 percent of men provided such care. Now it is up to 40 percent. Please read the story at

I have no shame in admitting that I am a Momma's boy. And when my father died in 2003, my oldest brother asked, "what are we going to do with Mom?"

I replied: "I want her."

My mother was my best friend besides being the best parent ever created. She got me into writing, particularly the political kind. She loved people. She flirted even into her '80s. She loved to tell me how much she hated George W. Bush. And in an interview when then AG Alberto Gonzales, I told him that my mother hated her boss but liked him. He laughed and sent her an autographed picture.

I had a condo picked out for Mom just a few minutes from my home and work. I would be able to go over and take her to lunch every day and cook her dinner every night while still providing her privacy and independence.

Then in my plans, she would go with me on the speaking circuit I maintained as a columnist then for The Tennessean. I'd speak on politics for 20 minutes, then I'd give her the floor so she could tell everyone how full of shit I was. The people of Tennessee would have loved her.

It has been written that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. And I had to get leukemia before my mother could come here.

The worst thing about my disease was not all the chemo which I still take, all the spinal taps nor almost dying two years ago. The real killer was that I could not be there for my Momma. And the guilt I still carry cuts so deeply.

So I am heartened by The Times story about men stepping forward in larger numbers to care for their parents, particularly their mothers. The story talks of how isolated the men feel. But I hope that any of you out there experiencing the same will realize that having the opportunity to do right by your parents in their last years is a great blessing.

It is one blessing I wish I would have had.

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