A listener got me thinking about the challenge of dealing with aging parents who become more and more needy and the conflicts one is bound to feel. It motivated me to write this poem:
Don’t Miss the Chance
They said I was lucky my mom lived near,
But she was pretty old and it wasn’t so clear.
Sure, I was grateful for all she did for me,
But I was so very busy. I had no time free.
I had my job, my kids, my own life to live.
There really was nothing left for me to give.
I couldn’t visit often, but I did help out.
I gave money, did chores, and ran her about.
But truth be told, I didn’t like it that much.
The conversation was dull, and she was frail to touch.
She complained a lot and I just felt worse.
I didn’t have time to be handyman or nurse.
I could have done more – of course I could –
But she loved me and she understood.
I know she did because she told me so.
She wanted me to be happy – and I pretended not to know
That she was lonely, uncomfortable, and scared of dying.
I closed my eyes to how hard she was trying
To be brave, independent, and not needy at all.
She assured me she’d be fine even after her fall.
But now she’s gone and I miss her so,
And I’m so sorry I pretended not to know
How much a call, a card, or a hug brightened her day
Or how easy it was to chase her blues away.
I’m ashamed I felt burdened, pressured, and put out.
She deserved more than I gave her, without a doubt.
So if your mom or dad is still with you,
Don’t lose the chance – do all you can do.
Make time, not excuses. Go the extra mile.
Because your chance to do so lasts only a while.
This is Michael Josephson, reminding you that character counts.
* After writing this poem, I realized many would think the poem reflected my personal experience. It’s not autobiographical. Actually, my mother died in her early 40s (I’ve talked about her cheerfulness and courage many times before). As I remind my listeners and readers from time to time, I see myself not as a journalist but as a teacher. I often use poems and parables to convey an insight or feeling that I think will inform, enlighten or uplift others. We received quite a few requests for this commentary. I hope I captured the emotions of people who have been in this situation.
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