Reversal Of Misfortune: Parenting The Parents

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press 

In the 1960s, Tom Gregory, then a television news anchor at WNEW-TV in New York, sent chills down the otherwise dense spines of parents with the catchphrase opening to his nightly newscast, delivered in a commanding, resonant voice: “It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your children are?” On cue, anxious viewers would often search their homes in a frantic game of Where’s Waldo, poke heads out of kitchen windows into the stark night, and, if necessary, work the phones like a multi-tasking overseas directory assistance operator.

Now, a generation later, the roles have changed in a reversal of misfortune, and many of us are wondering each morning: “It’s 10 am. Do you know where your folks are?”

Parenting the aging parents is making Baby Boomers bald these days, and is standing hairs on the back of the necks of “thirtysomethings.” The MTV Generation is even watching in unsettled anticipation. Many independent-minded parents, my own included, are opting to stay in their homes, shunning assisted living and nursing facilities. But help could be on the way. To assist boomers, a Global Positioning System chip, embedded in a pair of sneakers, can now track elderly parents. For short money ($350), you can locate your parents anywhere in the world with the press of the button. Of course, you have to get them to buy into it.

Recently, my 85-year-old father and 83-year-old mother resisted a family intervention for a less invasive home medical alert system—finally consenting under pressure, but not without a scrap, some if it humorous.

“You think I’m going to die, don’t you!” my Irish father, confined to a walker with serious circulation issues, braced me last week, entirely missing the point.

“No Dad, I don’t,” I replied calmly—the oldest boy in a family a ten and the appointed spear-carrier for this mission. The first-alert system in question, I told him, was “for an emergency.”

“Do you know that this thing doesn’t work within 300 yards of the house,” he responded.

“Dad,” I said, with a degree of sarcasm, “You haven’t been beyond 300 yards of the house in ten years!”

“That’s not the point,” he hammered. “This whole thing is unnecessary!”

My Mom then interjected with a sidebar comment that a man with a “Scottish” name was installing the alert system the next day. 

“Is his name McGeorge?” I inquired.

“No,” she replied, raising her voice. “It’s a Scottish name!”

“Is it McGregor, McBundy, MacDonald, Mackintosh?” I asked.

“Nooooooo,” she said, even louder. “I told you, it’s a SCOTTISH name!”

My folks then began arguing in a deafening banter over the surname of this executioner. Finally, Mom reached into a pile of papers and read from a lithe form. “He’s Scottish,” she insisted. “SCOTISH, I told you! You just don’t listen! Here it is: the guy’s name is…ah…It’s Johnny Walker!”

I needed a shot or two of Johnny Walker when I returned home that night. 

God bless ‘em!

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