Journey’s End

Dennis Friedman

A FEW MONTHS AGO, I received an early morning phone call from a nurse, notifying me that my mother had passed away. Even though she was age 96 and recovering from a mild heart attack, it was still a shock.

Up to the time of her death, she was mentally alert and determined to show everyone that she belonged at home, not at a strange nursing and rehabilitation facility. She gave it her best, but she couldn’t overcome her weak heart.

After spending seven years as my mother’s primary caregiver, I had become very close to her. When she passed away, I was overwhelmed by this strong sense of loneliness. Having family and friends to lean on provided me with much needed support at this difficult time—yet another reminder of how relationships are so valuable in our life’s journey.

Ever since I retired, I’ve been my parents’ caregiver. I now have this big hole in my life I need to fill. I feel like I’m retiring again. Indeed, taking care of a loved one can, at times, seem like a job. It can be stressful, physically demanding and require long hours. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

I’ll be moving next year and that will keep me busy. Rachel and I will be moving into my parents’ house. This move is something they would have wanted.

I have some reservations about the move, because there are financial risks involved. The house needs a lot of work. It could be a money pit, where we blow through our budget if we aren’t careful. It’s the type of project you should undertake when you’re employed and have a steady paycheck—not when you’re retired and living on a fixed income.

The house has an upstairs, which is not ideal for people our age. Although my elderly mother lived there, it won’t be easy to navigate the house in our declining years. Those stairs might require another costly move down the road.

Although this might not be a good financial decision, I believe it’s a good life decision. Our quality of life will improve with this move. How so?

  • We’ll get excellent health care. We will be near to high-quality doctors and hospitals.
  • The city we’re moving to is listed as one of the safest places to live in the U.S.
  • There will be plenty of outdoor activities to participate in, such as trails for walking and riding a bike.
  • We can stroll to many restaurants and stores in the neighborhood.

I’ll miss my mother very much. She was a person I could always count on for help and advice. I learned that early in my life.

When I was in first grade, there was a little girl who sat next to me in class. When the teacher wasn’t looking, she would whisper in my ear, “I’m going to marry you, Dennis.” She would also tell all the children in class that we were going to get married.

One day, when our class was lined up to go into the cafeteria for lunch, she stepped out of the line and, in front of everybody, said, “Dennis, we are going to get married.”

I went home that afternoon and told my mother about this little girl who was terrorizing me at school. My mother promptly called the school and talked to my teacher.

The next day, I went to school and my desk was moved to the far side of the classroom and the little girl’s desk was on the opposite side. After a few days, I never heard any more comments about getting married.

I knew from that day on how lucky I was to have a mother who I could go to, no matter how big or small my problems were.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include So Many BenefitsPeace of Mind and Getting Schooled. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.

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2 years ago

Dennis, I’m sorry for your loss. My mother is 97 and I know I will be devastated when her time comes. Fortunately, she is in an assisted living apartment in a great retirement facility. My sister lives in the same town and is on the front lines while the rest of us do our best from1000+ miles away to visit as often as we can and to call almost every day.

As for the advisability of moving into your parent’s home, my opinion is that it depends on your health, financial status, and how important it is for you to live there. I’m sure your parents would understand if you decided that their house wasn’t a good fit for the two of you, as I know they would much rather that you be happy than stressed. On the other hand, if you are in good health and not too old, I think there is something to be said for a house with stairs. My wife (70) and I (71) just recently sold our three story apartment in Brooklyn and now live in a two story house that has everything we need on the main floor. Since moving in August, I’ve put on 5 pounds which I attribute primarily to no longer going up and down 20+ flights of stairs a day. This year I will be finally be among those whose New Year’s resolution is focused on exercise.

2 years ago

I’d like to suggest that if you have more free time, if you haven’t been exercising, try to add some exercise into your life. If you’re old enough for Medicare, look into the free program, which may pay for free exercise classes or admission to facilities. Even if you have to pay to go somewhere, find some kind of activity you like. Walking, water exercise, yoga are all good for older people, and help take your mind off your worries.

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