Life After Death, Boomer-style

Ruth D Benincasa

Mom in better times

My mother just died.

She was 92, in quickly deteriorating health, and didn’t see the inside of her home again during the final six months of her life – she needed far too much, and round-the-clock, skilled care – best handled in a Skilled Nursing Facility (aka, “nursing home”).  We found her the best available facilities in this woods’ neck, stayed on top of her care daily to ensure it was highest quality (aka “squeaky wheel”), visited her daily, and, I hope, helped her to leave this world with as little suffering as her body would allow.

I’m sad.  Sad that her body was so broken in the end; sad that given my own disability I couldn’t do more for her myself; sad that there will be no more visits and dinner outings with her; sad that I’m now an orphan (daddy died in 2009).

John H Benincasa Sr

Daddy in his final year

In that I’m a wee too old to be upset that I have no parents now, I’m realizing that this is a Boomer phenomena – we take the loss of our parents harder than our parents did the loss of theirs.

Why is that?

Here’s my theory.

I believe our parents were, well, a bit more adult adults than we are as we live our dream of perpetual youth.  We’ve depended on our parents far more than they did theirs, remaining “children” far longer.  Too many of us depend upon our inheritance as our retirement plan, having spent up and borrowed away what we earned.  Even those of us who became, and will become, our parents’ caretakers in the end as was I, and therefore took on a type of “parenting” role with and of them, do so in a way different than our parents did theirs; some of us doing it from afar and therefore, frankly, less effectively by necessity, some petulantly (annoyed that an ailing elder is interrupting their daily routine), most of us lovingly but perhaps with a tinge of shock that we must sacrifice in ways to which we’re unaccustomed.

Their “greatest generation” moniker came from lives of sacrifice, stoic determination, toughened by the need to take on great responsibility at an early age (some right after high school, many before even completing it) thus being better prepared for such significant loss.

Our at times aptly coined “me” generation came from being more coddled, cared for through college and for some beyond, we had/have lives of greater comfort than they; we are softer.

They felt like grown-ups who understood the loss of their parents as another part of life to rise above.  We feel like….orphans.

My mother and father, I realize now, lived up to their generation’s sensibilities, something I didn’t appreciate enough when they were alive.  I will try to emulate them now.

Mom, Dad, I think I’ve finally learned what you tried to teach us all along – the ideals of humility, thrift, strength to face and conquer adversity with dignity (eg without losing stride…) that your generation tried to teach ours but we cast aside as too “old fashioned” – now that you’re gone, I’ve finally grown up.

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