When you’re in your fifties and sixties — as so much of the population is — there are many daunting issues to face. Whether it’s helping to launch your young adults, caring for aging parents, saving for retirement or staying healthy, there’s so much to stay on top of. I’ve enjoyed having the chance to be one of the debut writers for a new publication, Considerable, that is taking an optimistic view of the road ahead. Here’s some information on their purpose and goal from the Editorial Director, Diane Harris, who formerly was Editor in Chief of MONEY. My first article for the website focused on a persistent problem among many siblings: tensions that arise in caring for an older parent. I got the idea for this story from observing some friends go through this. I thought it was important to provide advice on how to head off disputes during what is already an emotionally-plagued time. The most recent piece I wrote for Considerable provides new tools for adult children having to navigate their parents’ finances. I know that, at some point, my siblings and I may find ourselves in this situation and I may very well consider one of these apps to simplify and manage the process in a secure way. It’s always great to see a new publication arise to tackle so many important issues. I look forward to continuing to contribute to Considerable and hope many of you will check it out.
The wonderful New York Times article by Silas House, “The Growing Generational Divide” so eloquently discussed what I agree is one of the elements lacking in so many young people today: their connection with older family members. He argues that young people know the intricacies of celebrities’ lives more than they understand their own family histories. Next week, I’ll be traveling to Minneapolis for the unveiling of my beloved aunt’s tombstone. The unveiling is a Jewish ceremony that occurs within a year of a person’s death. As I read this piece, memories of casual Sundays spent with my aunt came flooding back. She and her family moved to Minneapolis when I was just 10, but any time she visited, she and my father’s other sister would take the stage. The two women were the funniest I’ve ever met, and we would spend hours listening to them weave true-life tales, amusing anecdotes that they told with great expression. There were no soccer games or music classes to rush to; everyone in my family would linger over a brunch of bagels and kugel and be truly entertained. My interest in telling peoples’ stories — albeit in writing — in many ways was rooted in my love of hearing their recollections. One of the best summers of my life was when I was 15 and traveled to Los Angeles and spent three weeks with my grandmother. Though many teens would not relish this type of experience, I loved it. We stayed up late playing the card game, War, while she gossiped about the family’s secrets. There was plenty of family history to discuss, as my grandfather was the oldest of 11, 10 boys and the youngest a girl. A great listener, my grandmother was often the confidante for many of her sister-in-laws. I was fascinated by the stories she would tell, some slightly scandalous, about the back stories of her many relatives. It was better than any television drama. My grandmother was crazy about me and I could do no wrong in her eyes. A children’s writer, she was a voracious reader — she bragged that she had read every book in the library of the town where she grew up — smart, affectionate and kind and truly one of the best companions I ever had. I still remember her cackling laugh and her homemade blintzes. And I cherish the time we had together.
When I visit my mother in the Detroit suburbs, I’m always touched to walk into a delicatessen and see throngs of grandparents with their grandchildren, catching up on the week’s events. When I sent one of my children to camp one year, there were as many grandparents as parents giving the overnight campers bear hugs and sending them off on the bus. These children have had a great gift, with extended family being so much a part of their lives.
In his article, House points out that we will have an onslaught of aging boomers in coming years. I will be one of them. I hope that, as our population ages, we’re able to maintain that connection with young people, and that they realize what a treasure it is to bond with their elderly relatives. Now that my father and his sisters are gone, I realize that more than ever.
As a freelance journalist with more than enough work to keep me busy, it’s not unusual for me to produce roughly two to three articles a week, many representing significant time and effort. I feel very fortunate and am happy for the assignments, but this situation rarely offers me the time to step back and review some of the subjects I’ve covered and the implications of the developments in a particular area. So I was pleased to be contacted by Garrison Leykam, a radio host in Connecticut, who was interested in speaking about the way boomers are reinventing retirement. It’s a subject I’ve written about extensively, and I enjoyed the chance to look back on my previous articles and chat about the important ways that boomers are making their mark on this phase in their lives. You can catch the interview here.
I was moved by Frank Bruni’s article in Sunday’s New York Times, The Gift of Siblings, since it mirrors the feelings I have towards my brother and sister. This past weekend, my daughter graduated from college. My brother planned a visit from China, where he lives, around the big event and my sister also made the two hour drive to be there, as did my husband’s sister, who drove nine hours from Boston with her son, and his brother and his wife, who live only an hour away from the college. The extended family rendezvoused at a cottage overlooking Lake Erie that we rented for the weekend. As I glanced out of the window as the sun was setting over the lake and saw everyone celebrating my daughter’s milestone together, I was grateful that I, like Bruni, had a big clan. My brother and sister are there for me during these exhilarating moments, but just as important, we’re there to prop each other up during the tough times. Just before my father passed away over a year ago, we took turns visiting him and tending to my mother’s needs. When he died, we collaborated on a fitting tribute filled with stories about his life that included his trademark good humor. When my children were only ages one and four, my mother-in-law passed away. As my husband’s large family filled her former house to pay their respects, I decided then that I was going to have another child, so my children could have an even larger support network. Had I the patience and fortitude, I would have had a fourth as well. As parents postpone childbearing and end up having smaller families, with only children becoming more the norm, I feel for the children who won’t have siblings to surround them the way I had, who will have to bear the burden of their parents’ illnesses, and eventually their death, alone, or with minimal support. This situation will take its toll emotionally on an entire population of children of boomers. I hope, that as young people contemplate the size of their family today, that they consider all that siblings have to offer. Like Bruni, I’m not only grateful for mine, but also that my children will have each others’ shoulders to lean on as they face the inevitability of their own parents aging