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andrea's story

What do we do when one of us, someone so close as a parent, someone who has always held it together, starts to buckle at the knees? What do we do when the situation demands more from us than we are prepared to give? What do we do “when the table turns?”

Andrea HurleyWe live in a world with several rites of passage. Confirmations. Bar Mitzvahs. Bat Mitzvahs. Marriage. Graduations. Retirements. Death—the final rite of passage. But recently it became apparent to me that there is another rite of passage, one that seems to be more hidden, and less acknowledged in our culture. It is the rite of passage of our aging parents, as they transition from care-givers to care-receivers.

What does a rite of passage mean in this context?

in 2008, when I became more deeply concerned about my mother, I did not realize that both she and I were about to enter a new rite of passage. All I knew is that things were changing, and that something new was being demanded from the situation. More time, more effort, more worry, and more phone calls with my siblings. My mother was losing her independence. She lived her whole life valuing her independence, and now this was coming apart at the seams. She fought with a vengeance to hold on to driving her car, and resisted the idea of of leaving her home. She wanted to "be at home till the end." Her words.

This is something I also value. I’m no different. Without my independence, I’m nobody. Or so it feels.

This transition—when our parents lose their independence—is a big one for a family. It certainly has been for me and for my siblings. It is the topic of many of my fellow boomer generation conversations.  It is on the plate for so many of us right now. Just like our parents, we also love, value and protect our independence with all our might. So what do we do when one of us, someone so close as a parent, someone who has always held it together, starts to buckle at the knees? What do we do when the situation demands more from us than we are prepared to give?

What do we do "when the table turns?"

I have found that there are no real guideposts to help with this transition—or at least none that have satisfied my deepest values. And so I embarked on my own journey with my mother, in the dark, seeking answers to how to do this in a way that does not compromise any of my own deepest values.

This blogsite is my open book inquiry into the table turning in my life, into the continually shifting waters, beyond the old order of things. There are mistakes and successes along the way, but the ship is moving forward. There are unexpected treasures along the way—in my mother, in myself, in my family and in my friends. This journey is a difficult one.  It is a new rite of passage for our aging parents, and for all of us. It is a journey that takes place in the dark, but where the light shines deeply and joyfully through the cracks. It is not only a journey worth embarking on, it is one that, I believe, touches a moral compass at the core of our humanity.