Sunday, August 03, 2014

Point of View

When they were small it was all one could do to get a LITTLE respect. My daughter, age 3, used to shout, "You're not the boss of me!" I begged to differ, and we struggled over authority; but then suddenly, she has not just grown up to be her own boss. Suddenly, so it seems, SHE is the boss of ME.

This morning I noticed a Times column called "Reverse Parenting." A glib writer has moved her family into her childhood home; she has bought her parents out. And now, to make room for her stuff, her parents' stuff must go. "But that is your grandmother's," the mother protests when a precious linen dresser scarf goes on the "throw" pile.

I realize that for quite a while now I have been reading writers making a meal about elderly parents. Roz Chast had an affectionate sendup of her mother making her father a vest out of old bottle caps. "Your mother is a brilliant woman!" the father shouts at the New Yorker cartoonist. Now, Roz draws their ashes in little bags at the bottom of her closet, among her shoes.

Then I further realize how many putting-mom-in-the-nursing-home essays I have read. I have even written one myself! Even as I wrote it I thought a better piece would do it from the parent's point of view.

But how write the mom whose children take charge of her life? I could start one, but then my attention would just drift away.

In old age one learns to "gouter humiliation," as the monks say. Well, I don't think I'll get to like it, but we'll certainly have to get used to it.

Just: the next time you read one of those "reverse parenting" pieces, have a thought for the parent whose role has reversed. (At least I have reserved a place for my ashes.)