Aging parents? Let’s talk turkey

It was the kind of week that’s been building up for months. The kind of week where little decisions made along the way suddenly come together. The kind of week that reminds you that, no matter how much you plan, life’s going to take you by surprise.

This week reminded me that I’m still very much a member of the sandwich generation – midway between aging parents and a young kid, both of whom needed my help.  If I’m the filling in the middle, this week I’m feeling more like turkey – a little on the lean side and verging on healthy. Which is good, because I need the energy.

First hurdle: Trying to convince my 79-year-old mother that a retirement apartment isn’t as scary as it sounds.

I’ve been working for months – at her request – to find her a new place to live – somewhere that would be much better than the brownstone she’s living in, run by a slum landlord who’s more worried about keeping his mama – she’s the one who owns the building – happy instead of the tenants who help pay for the Mercedes he drives her around in.

So I did. A nice apartment building purpose-built for seniors who can still live independently. The unit has a bedroom, living/dining room, kitchen and bathroom.  There was a waiting list – and this week my mother’s name came up.

I took the day off to take her to see it. But at the last minute, she wouldn’t go.  Point blank refused to. She didn’t want to go to “that kind of building.” It’s for seniors, I tell her. It’s made for people like her. But she refuses. So I keep the appointment anyway and report back. Are there any “bugs?” She asks. Nope, I say, no bugs.

But it does have a church attached to the building, a hairdresser, a convenience store – even a social committee and coffee klatch.

“Are there any stairs?” She uses a walker and her current building has stairs at the entrance.

“No. It’s built for seniors, so everything’s accessible,” I say, in my best comforting voice.

Two days later, I get a phone call.

“What if there’s a fire?” she asks, out of the blue.

“What do you mean?”

“If there aren’t any stairs, how do I escape if there’s a fire?”


“There are emergency stairs! Nobody’s going to leave 500 seniors in a building to burn!” I say.

“You didn’t tell me that,” she said primly.


She came to see the place later in the week. After my husband gave up his day off to take her. And now, at least, she’s willing to fill out an application … another step on the road to putting her in a better spot, I hope – but I’ll hedge my bets.

Because there’s another definition of turkey:  a stupid, foolish or inept person, according to Merriam Webster.  Synonyms: dipstick, doofus, half-wit, jackass, lunatic, ninny, nitwit, dingbat.  The Oxford English Dictionary gives this example of its usage: I felt like such a turkey spying on his house.

That’s more like it:  I felt like such a turkey trying to reason with an obstinate 79-year-old.




  1. Oh Deb, I feel for you. I know it could go either way, but I hope your mom takes that vacancy so you have one less thing to worry about. You deserve a little peace of mind.

    1. There are so many people and so little of us to go around! I do hope she takes it … but at least I can share the funnies when they happen.

  2. Beautifully written, Deb. It makes me sad but at least she’s got a loving daughter on her side. That counts for a lot.

    1. Thanks Marie. So many of us going through this … least we can do is try to have a sense of humour (though black humour sometimes) about it.

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