Excerpts from


Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles: A Survival Guide for the Kids

Pam's parents, Ev and Walt, were in no way extraordinary. They did not abuse; they were not alcoholics or schizophrenics; they did not suffer from bi-polar disease or obsessive compulsion. They were loving, involved parents and devoted partners. However, Pam's relationship with them shifted when they became dependent on her during each of their final three months. Hers is the story of millions of sons and daughters who must balance their own very full lives with the daily concerns for their parents' survival and their own self-preservation.

  ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES provides tongue-in-cheek lessons based on the bizarre, laughable, memorable antics of Pam's ninety-year-old parents. It will also provide tongue-in-cheek lessons based on her navigation through hospital surgeries, rehab facilities, nursing homes, health care agencies, parental alienation, and family rivalries. The book offers levity while dealing with a demanding, stressful world that is neither black nor white, a world of laughter and tears.


An Excursion with My Parents





Since Charley and I were “snowbirds,” I flew down from Massachusetts each summer to check on my parents in Boynton Beach, Florida. Mom was eighty-eight; Dad was ninety-two.I totally disrupted their lives when I visited. Although their house had a guest room with full bath, the worst problem was the air conditioning. They normally kept their temperature at 80 degrees. When I arrived, they turned it down to 76, as a concession. In Florida in August, the heat was 95 during the day, with 90% humidity. I never slept the first night. The next morning, I requested they turn the temperature down. We compromised at 74 degrees. That was when my parents sat in their jackets during the day and turned on their electric blankets at night.


By the time we left on our excursion to Naples, Florida, I’d been visiting for a week. The bluish shadows under their eyes were evidence of my intrusion.

I had made reservations for two rooms at The Registry, where summer room rates were $179/night. “My God! Is this our hotel?” Mom said, as we pulled up to the front entrance.


“Too much glitz!” Dad commented, leaning on the reservation counter in the marble foyer. Waterfalls gurgled in front of us and a crystal chandelier dripped teardrops over our heads. “How in the heck do we find our room?”


Unfortunately, my room was ready, but theirs wasn’t. We proceeded down an elevator, then a long hall, then another elevator, to one of five pools for lunch.

“This humidity is unbearable!” Mom declared, wiping off her brow and armpits with a napkin from her place setting at the lunch table. “Give me the breeze off the Atlantic any day!” After a brief tram ride through the mango preserve onto the dunes of the Gulf, they retired to their room and slept till dinner.

I had suggested a two-hour sightseeing trolley ride in Naples the next day. Departure time was 9:30 a.m., so my parents had to get up earlier than usual. “Do you have a voucher for breakfast?” the waiter asked my mother.


“Good heavens, I have no idea! This place is too complicated!” she retorted, rummaging among the debris and supplies in her knitting bag that doubled as a purse.

After breakfast, we proceeded outside to the trolley stop. The only bench was back near the lobby entrance. We went back there to wait. Five minutes before pick-up time, we started tortoise-like down the sidewalk. Dad used his three-legged walker (cum pouch). The elastic bandages supporting his knees hung below the hems of his shorts. Although sprightly and full of energy, Mom hung behind him, in case of a mishap. I looked around and saw the trolley circling past the front entrance, then departing in the opposite direction. The driver had seen no-one at the pick-up area.


“Please!” I yelled to the bellhop at the front door. “Ask the concierge to phone the company to come back! We didn’t make it to the stop on time.” Eventually, the trolley reappeared.


“Do you believe there are no benches at this stop?” Mom ranted, once aboard. “This place isn’t for old people! The Breakers in Palm Beach wants people our age to stay there.” Most passengers on the trolley were now taking note.


I leaned over and whispered to her, “Mom, when have you ever stayed at The Breakers?”


“Never, but I saw plenty of benches when we drove by!”