In Chronicle of Higher Education, I just saw another poignant reminder to listen to what an elder person wants as his or her legacy. In this essay, a son talks about how his goals for the retirement of his father did not align with what his father envisioned. And, not until after his father's death, did the son fully realize the mismatch.
Excerpt from "In Search of a Professor's Legacy":
Since his retirement in 1993, my father had been working on one last major project: a book he hoped would be his summa, his legacy. ...
He never finished that task. I now possess boxes of his notes and hundreds of data files but nothing like a manuscript. Moreover, the tension in the last chapter in our relationship was that his focus became my frustration. I wanted him to pay attention to matters that were vital to me: his and my mother's health, finances, and living arrangements. He wanted to talk about climate change, the possible entropy of civilization itself, and the nature of good and evil. He gloried in seeking new knowledge and immersing himself in current affairs. I fretted about the books (12,000 in all), magazines, and newspapers (he subscribed to over a dozen print publications) that made their home an obstacle course and a firetrap. Even when my parents finally moved into assisted living, the book project was a chasm between us.
Since his death, I have learned that his counter-ire with me was even deeper and more pained than I knew at the time: He believed that his only child didn't believe in him.
Was our impasse inevitable and unsolvable?
Click to read the rest of the essay.
Fortunately, there seems to be no shortage of blog posts, articles, poems, and books to help us through the fields, gardens, and thickets of allying with, and perhaps attending to, an aging parent, co-worker, or friend. Click to read other thoughts on honoring wishes of the aging:
- "What a sweet reminder to listen to your patient (or your client or your friend)"
- Aesop's old hound and the greying of the bar: What to do with old dogs?
- "Some lawyers go gentle into that good night, others do not: 'Graying of the Bar' fueling concern in court"
- "Tomorrow you may become yesterday's child"
- Book: How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders