Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Five Helpful Things to Remember As Parents Age

Bob Cleveland became my friend during a pretty dark period in my life (2005) when the denominational leadership of the religious denomination in which I minister (SBC) turned on me. Bob Cleveland stepped up and befriended me. He also defended the biblical principles I was articulating,  not just personally but publicly.

He and I could tell some pretty interesting stories about Hard Ball Religion.

That said, over the last decade, I've discovered Bob Cleveland to be a wonderful writer, a loveable logician, and an astounding apologist. Bob is a humble man, with some remarkable friendships. He has coffee with university Presidents, exchanges emails with shakers and movers, and shares a robust appreciation for the Kingdom of Christ and all  of Christ's Kingdom people. 

Bob was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 12, 1938. He lived in Calumet City, Illinois until the age of 15 when his family and he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Thornton Fractional Township High School (T.F.T.H.S. - try that on the back of letter jackets!) and later attended Purdue University. Bob spent most of 50 years in the Property/Casualty Insurance industry and retired in February 2008. He is happily married to Peggy (March 13th, 1959), a four-time breast cancer survivor with a faith as strong as her husband's. The couple now makes their home in Birmingham, Alabama where they are members of First Baptist Church, Pelham. Bob has traveled to 36 countries, 45 states, and traversed through 116 airports, so he's a man of the world, but more importantly, he's a man belongs to the Christ's eternal Kingdom!
The other day Bob sent me an email that contained an anecdote about how Bob cared for his aging parents. I asked permission to post this because I believe it will be an encouragement to many who find themselves in the same situation. Pay particular attention to the five principles at the end of his email to me.  
My folks lived in a nice condo in Clearwater, FL, in 1985. They were in their mid-70's.
I traveled a lot then, and frequently had meetings in Orlando. I'd always schedule them to end on Thursday, and mom & dad would pick me up in the afternoon and I'd visit with them over the weekend, then fly back home. 
They'd been there some years, and were active in a local church, and with the County ARC. Chatting on Sunday afternoon, I asked dad what he'd do if mom died. After some conversation, he said he'd want to live close to family. 
I said "Well, that's Long Island (where my brother lived) or Birmingham (where I lived). He said he would not want to live in New York, so I said "So if mom dies first, you would want to move to Birmingham, right?" He said yes.
 Asked the same question of mom, and after she danced around it a little, she said the same thing. So I responded that, whoever died first, the survivor would move to Birmingham. And they agreed with that.
 I pointed out that, when one of them died, the survivor would not just lose their spouse of 55+ years, but they would also lose their church, their home, their friends, and there activities. So wouldn't it make sense to move now? Then they could have new friends, a new church, and new activities before one of them became a widow.
A week later, they called and said they'd been upset when I brought that up, because they knew I was right. So they had already listed their condo for sale and they'd be here a week later to find an apartment.
 I went out that week and found an apartment 5 minutes from here and 2 minutes from my office. The loved it and rented it the day I showed it to them.
4 years later, dad died (several interesting stories about that), and mom could not go back to the apartment. The lease was up, so she moved in here.

I was very plain with her. I told her to never ever do anything that would divide Peg and me. And I had to call her on it a few times, too. Things like saying "Don't tell Peg this, but ....". I always simply stopped her and told her never to say that to me. And when she said things like "I guess I'll just find another place to live" I would answer "Next time you say that, you're going to find your stuff at the curb."
We enjoyed her time here, and I think part of that was attributable to precise and understandable ground rules.
Gee. The same thing seems to have worked with our kids, too......
I was always frank about her driving, too (she had a fairly new Chrysler). And we'd discuss it when she'd have some kind of little mishap, like missing a turn-in to a parking lot and end up with a wheel in the ditch. I also told her that we'd be happy to take her anywhere she wanted to go, so one day she called me to her room and said "If I give you my driver's license, will you cut it up for me"? And together, we did.
One of the more rewarding things happened when she died. She was spending time in a nursing home after a broken hip. Peg was out of town in Indiana, and on July 4, 1997, when she got back, we went to visit mom. She said she had decided she was going to rejoice regardless of her circumstance, and welcome anything God allowed in her life (that was BIG).
4 hours later, about 1 a.m. on July 5, 1997, the phone rings and they told me mom had some kind of episode and they were taking her across the street to the local suburban hospital. I said we'd be right there ... about 30 minutes away.
As they were putting her in the ambulance, they told her "Bob's on his way", and she said "Oh, good!" And that's her last words ... she'd had an abdominal aneurysm, and died before they got to the hospital.
I learned a lot from that scenario.
1) Clear unambiguous rules work.
2) Nobody wants to talk about death, but God said it's appointed to us to die one day, so talk about it.
3) The important thing is to be there, and be available. 
 4) God doesn't show us things so we can sit down and be quiet.  Do something.
5) It's time to talk about this sort of stuff before it's time to take action. And so it goes..... 
You can read more of Bob's writings at his blog at Eagle's Rest


Rex Ray said...

Be nice to your kids; they will choose your rest home. :)

Bob Cleveland said...

And your Depends, Rex.

Rex Ray said...


Thank you for being a friend to Wade. Also for your wit; I believe it was you who said, “It’s the bit dog that hollers”.

Anonymous said...

There might be more things to consider: make sure you listen when your parents speak! My dear friend moved at age 74, a widow, over a thousand miles alone to pursue a dream. Now at 78 she just did it again. Independent and happy as a clam.

And some of us have taken steps legally to make sure our kids do not choose our rest home or make end of life decisions for us. Advance planning relieves them of needing to face these issues while struggling emotionally. And allows us the freedom to craft the life we will want when that time comes.

It is a wonderful post but let it be a jumping off point to invent the later life you want, not the one your kids want for you!