What I Didn’t Learn Growing Up

As a kid, I could hardly wait to grow up. I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone and would do whatever I want. How could I have been so wrong!

Why, as kids, didn’t we see what was going on around us? Or, maybe it’s really, how lucky we were as kids to not see what was going on around us.

Of all the responsibilities we face as adults, the one I’ve been most unprepared for is dealing with sickness. I have seen friends and relatives get sick and die – or just die without any warning at all.

Sometimes, while I’m thumbing through the Times, I’ll look at the obituaries to see who famous died. The Times has a very esoteric definition of newsworthy deaths – often bright, learned, accomplished within their professions but virtually disregarded by The Times during their life.

When I’m finished reading, I subtract my age from theirs. The remainder is getting smaller. Sometimes, it’s a negative number.

Last night I spoke with my mom and got word that Uncle Murray had had a TIA. That stands for Transient Ischemic Attack , which I wouldn’t have known without checking. It’s a mini stroke caused by a temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain, resulting in a sudden, brief decrease in brain function. (It lasts less than 24 hours, usually less than one hour). We think he’ll be fine.

The fact that Uncle Murray could have this, out of the blue, scares the living daylights out of me (and undoubtedly doesn’t thrill Murray either). My Cousin Judy will go and get Uncle Murray and take him to her home, a few hundred miles from Queens, where, as a widower, he lives alone.

As is daughter, she will take charge and responsibility. It’s funny how at some point the parent becomes the child and the child the parent.

I watched Helaine do the same for her parents before they died.

I dread my parents getting older. Though they’re ostensibly in good health, who really knows? It scares me. It probably scares them. I would never ask.

Often, they don’t tell me the smaller things that they go through. They sense the responsibility that my sister and I have to them. They don’t want us hopping on planes for things common at their age – uncommon at ours. I’m sure we’d both be there in a moment would they need us.

Selfishly, we see our own mortality in our parents.

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