The stranger danger talk—with my parents

As I was thinking of a what to write about, the electricity went out and the cable, obviously had to be reset. It reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years back and it might be a good reminder for caregivers to have the stranger danger talk– with your parents.

The cable went out. No cable– no phone. I was not home.  So my parents tell me this tale of woe they experienced sans electric….. Dad goes outside and walks around. Kind of yells to the neighbor’s front door. Nobody answers. Sees a neighbor walking on the sidewalk. Strolls down the driveway to strike up a conversation. “How’s it going?” the unknown neighbor asks.
My dad says “Well, not so good, phone’s not working and the TV won’t go on. The Indians are playing on TV.” He invites the man in to look at it but cannot figure out the cable so he leaves. But not before my dad gives him my son’s cell phone number. I have instructed my parents to NEVER give out my cell phone number.  But I didn’t mention my son. Oops….
“Dad,” I said. “is it that important to have your TV running every waking hour and inviting someone that you don’t know into our home?

“But I think I have seen him in the neighborhood,” was his reply.

Granted it turned out to be a neighbor who strolls by the house on a daily basis. But we live in the era of people taking advantage of the elderly, where unthinkable events have occurred and neighborhoods are broken into. It happens.

On another occasion, my dad  answered the phone and the man on the other side identified himself as my son. He proceeded to explain that he had been in an accident and needed money. My dad came over and I saw the look of concern on his face!

He said Matt was in an accident. My mother’s instinct went from panic stricken horror to reality. Something was really off. I would have been the first contact for my children. And I was home so I grabbed the phone from my dad and the person on the other end hung up. When my father said it did not sound like my son,  the caller answered that he had a broken jaw from the accident, was in a lot of pain and went on to say he needed money to hire a lawyer because the police were saying it was his fault. So many red flags were raised, it seemed so obvious. But when it comes to family matters, we just want to do as much as we can as quickly as we an and that was how my dad was responding.

Sadly, we live in a world where cautionary tales like this abound and we cannot remind our older family members often enough to beware.




Sparkling lights

The white lights of the Christmas tree shining make me feel calm and soothed. The glow illuminates not just light but warmth, the warmth of having loved ones close to you. My children do not live in town so I want all the time with them that is possible. I find it difficult to not measure how much time they spend with this relative or that relative. Have you ever done that? I remember my mom getting upset that my out-of town sister spent more time with her in-laws than with my parents when she visited.

Well now that my kids live between Columbus and the west coast, I try to find peace with that , finding my own way, my friends, living with the quiet. Funny, I can’t help but think of the times during those shared parenting moments that I was alone. For the last 10 years Mom and Dad lived with me. So Christmases were not quite alone. I could wander in and out of their in-law suite. This was the first year they are in assisted living and that was another adjustment.

My dad has become very minimalist. He wanted no part of a Christmas tree. What no Christmas tree! Christmas trees bring me to all those years as a child remembering my mom carefully retrieving the ornaments that she had since they were first married in 1951. All the times she yelled at my dad or us because we weren’t hanging the tinsel carefully enough or what about the years he cemented the tree into a pail so it had no chance of falling over.

Now, tinsel, what tinsel! When I brought a 2-foot tree to their little apartment, my dad scoffed at the idea. “How will I turn it on?” “I will trip over it!”  “Too Much trouble”. “Takes up too much room”. I removed the objections one by one, adding a remote control so with the press of a button it was on or off, tucked it into a corner so it was out of the way and skipped the tinsel and ornaments. Just the colored lights! Ha, settled. He took the remote in hand and proceeded to joke with the next aide that walked in. He smiled and told her to clap her hands. Magic! The tree was lit! Let the season be bright.

The Senior Phone scam hit our home

My dad picked the phone and  the man at the other end sounded a bit frantic. “Grandpa, I was in an accident.” “Matt is that you? It doesn’t sound like you,” my dad answered. “Yes, but I have a busted jaw and a bloody nose. I am in jail and I need your help” My dad become agitated, asked a few more question and “Matt” ended the conversation saying an attorney would be calling back because he needed money to get out of jail.

Fortunately, I was home and able to get the gist of the conversation quickly. First I called Matt to verify his condition then I called the police. They are certainly aware of these kinds of phone calls but said because many of these calls originate off shore , and there had not been a crime, there was nothing they could do about it. But sure enough, an “attorney from New York” called back and began to ask personal questions. My dad now told the guy he would have nothing to do with him, accused him of being a scam artist and if course, the man hung up. Way to go, Dad.

Whether they found out my family information from the internet, or verbal cues from my father or by randomly calling phone numbers, these ne’er do wells are still out there so it is a great time to remind your folks to never give out personal information or bank account numbers over the phone.  The devil is at work preying on seniors to rob them of their financial resources, knowing that their family’s safety is paramount and they would do anything to help. Take some time to have a conversation about senior safety.



I love my parents and I love my grandchildren. How lucky I am that I got to spend time with them last weekend but boy am I tired. My parents, ages 84, and 82 require daily care. I am privileged that they live with me, but that also bears its burdens. While my grandchildren, ages 41/2 and 3, visited last week, I also had to squeeze in an 8:15 a.m. appointment for my dad. He has an aortic aneurysm that needed to be checked. So I am the one who takes him to major doctor appointments. Definition of major appt: a meeting with the doctor to diagnose or make a prognosis. Often times aging parents may not “listen” to what they are “hearing” (or not hearing), so I need to be there to make sure they don’t overreact or under react to what the doctor is saying. That meant making sure someone was there to watch the little ones while I drove the older one. My significant other, Ray, volunteered. Did I say volunteer? Nudging might be a better description, God love him. By the time I returned they had devoured cookies that they discovered in my parents’ pantry, the little guy had taken my son’s glasses and put them away……somewhere. And of course, toys were strewn about the family room. My days of complaining about being an empty nester are over. Be careful what you ask for, I say.
The good news is that I shed two pounds over the weekend. I think that happened when I was chasing the darlings up and down the bleachers, back and forth to the bathroom and concession stand and off the playing field during a high school soccer game we were attending for Ray’s son.