All posts tagged: Parents

Taking Care of the Strongest Man I Ever Knew

My father asked me, “How long does it take?” I felt all the sound, light, air — everything — leave the room; only the weight of those words remained. I was standing at the side of his bed, lightly stroking his forehead. Mom was exhausted, slumped in a chair in a dark corner. He was dying and wanted to know when it would be over. He had seen so much life and death on the farm — animal life and death — for 40 years, he knew when death was near and he was ready for it. But for him to ask me… that took me a minute. I was the youngest and a girl. You didn’t reveal this kind of vulnerability to your youngest daughter. Four months earlier, I’d come home for a visit and it had been clear to me: Dad was not going to make it. It was upsetting to see him so much thinner and weaker than just a month ago. It was before the dialysis. Before the hospitalization. That January afternoon, he sat …

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How to Have the Money Talk with Your Parents

Even if you began planning for your Golden Years at an early age, there is one thing about retirement that no one ever warns you about: You might be on the hook for some (or all) of your parents’ retirement. How, you may ask? Well, there is a high probability your parentals will outlive their savings. The median household approaching retirement has a nest egg of just $10,000 to $20,000, according to the Government Accountability Office. Among folks who have saved for retirement, the median amount of their savings is about $104,000 for households age 55 to 64 and $148,000 for households age 65 to 74. That’s equivalent to a payout of $310 and $649 per month, respectively. That’s not even accounting for inflation. And you shouldn’t count on Social Security to give Mom and Dad much of a safety net. Social Security coverage is minimal at best – this year, the average monthly benefit is $1,341, which equates to $16,092 for the year. That’s barely enough to stay out of poverty. [pullquote] The average …

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Mother of One: The Fertility Choice That Changed My Life

I got married late compared to others I know. At 34, after several rejected proposals and broken engagements, it was finally time. We both wanted children, and, after a year or so, we began trying to conceive. I’d always thought I’d be a mother of three. Before I ever wanted to get married, I wanted to be a mom and three was the magic number in my head. We came up with first and middle names for both boys and girls. We quickly agreed on a boy name: Daniel Patrick*. The others took discussion. We settled on Zoe June and Luke Bradford. Thus began our four-year conception journey — and it was terrible. As a young woman, I was sick with ulcerative colitis and, after five years of illness, underwent a multi-stage, major surgery that left me with an abdomen full of scar tissue. As a result, nothing worked to get us pregnant. We went from “not trying” to “trying” to “charting and temping” to fertility doctors. We threw more money, time and science at …

I’m The Embarrassing Parent I Never Wanted To Be

You know the look. The I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that look. The one that makes you feel like no matter how tiny your infraction, your teenager will forever remember this embarrassing moment. The problem is, it’s challenging for me to refrain from breaking into song-and-car-dance when Uptown Funk (or even Funky Cold Medina) comes on the radio. It doesn’t matter if a friend of my 15-year-old daughter’s is in the car, a random cute boy is biking by, or we are at a stoplight with a car full of her peers right next to us — this type of music gets into my soul and beckons me. Yes, I have officially become the embarrassing mom. [pullquote]Anytime my daughter catches a glimpse of this boy on our way to or from school, she reaches over, holds my arm down so I won’t attempt a wave, and says, “Don’t even think about offering him a ride, Mom!”[/pullquote] It’s a legacy. Growing up with my dad was like being in a room with Rodney Dangerfield— loud red overcoat, green and red plaid …

Peeing on Sticks: When Your Body Just Won’t Comply

I’ve learned on my journey to parenthood that I have fertility issues and it’s very hard for me to get pregnant. Also, I am prone to miscarriage. After my most recent (third) miscarriage, I asked the doctor if there’s a correlation to having both issues, like maybe one makes you more likely to have the other. She replied with a simple and direct “No.” My uterus gets a big fat C-.  It gave me one beautiful, intelligent son, so it doesn’t get a total fail, but I did nearly lose him at 17 weeks. This third miscarriage was just brutal, both physically and emotionally. I was just about to enter 10 weeks in my pregnancy when I received the awful news that there wasn’t a heartbeat any more. Getting pregnant in the first place was difficult because I don’t ovulate monthly. It’s more like quarterly. And after that pregnancy had ended I begun the cycle of getting pregnant all over again. Seriously, how can my reproductive organs just not work? It’s unknown why! They just …

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Family Archivist: Why I’m the Only One Who Still Writes Letters

I come from one of those annoyingly functional intact families that make it hard for me to sell my memoir to publishers. Of course, the rosy vision I have of my family relations is helped by the fact that I live, by choice, three thousand miles away from them in the Bay Area, and have for 20 years. It’s easier to idolize my parents and siblings (and vice versa) when we’re not rubbing right up against each other every day. Even if the cross-country move was entirely my doing, once I became a parent the fact that I was the outer moon to their cozy hometown Family Planet became harder to bear. When Mom and Dad wanted to see my brother’s and sister’s kids perform in a school music showcase or volleyball game, it required a drive that ranged from five to thirty-five minutes (depending on the snow). To see my kids perform, it requires advanced airline reservations, a transfer in Chicago, and three days for them to get over jet lag. Seeing Grandma and …

Being Small is the Greatest Escape

There is no such thing as quantifying loss. Loss is beyond measure, inherently both heavy and weightless, its true burden to be measured only by those who are carrying it. In that way my dead parents equals your failed business venture or your sister’s cheating spouse. We cannot assign it a hierarchy. Loss takes, and takes, and takes. This price is what equalizes. We only need know it takes. I had the hubris to write a book about walking through a season of loss in my life. I called it Falling Apart In One Piece, a bit of wordplay that pleased me, because with it, I could announce my failures and overcome them, too, in a single breath — even though the truth is, it took me almost three years to walk that distance. The night of the book’s official publication, I was feted at a party. It was a poignant kind of triumphant: I stood on the stairs in the entry hall of a friend’s beautiful suburban home, surrounded by dozens of people listening …

The Embarrassing and Inventive Ways My Dad Saved Money

Dad was a Depression-era baby. My siblings and I always assumed this was the reason for his notoriously thrifty ways. But now that I’ve  considered it further, I’m beginning to believe that it was a result of both nurture AND nature. I think Dad was actually born cheap. While my family had natural financial ups and downs, Dad continued to live as if we were still in the Depression, no matter how flush with cash we might have been. My family ran a small chain of Hallmark stores. Which was ironic since Dad saw the one-time use of greeting cards a foreign and unnecessary concept (we don’t think he planned to resell them, but no one knows for sure.) Every card we received from Dad, since the opening of the stores in the mid 1970s to his death a few years ago, was signed in pencil. After the occasion, he would erase his sentiments, with the intent to reuse the card. My sister Julie calls him “The Original Repurposer.” Hallmark carried a lot of fun …