waiting for a parent to die

A fear that looms large in our childhoods and throughout our lives.

There comes a point (around age 30?  40?  50?) when we start to feel lucky.  Our parents have beat the averages.  We’ve seen our friends go through this while our parents are still with us.  We’ve talked about mom and dad with people who have no mom and dad.

The fear eventually becomes anticipation, and then expectancy.

We’re lucky if we have time to say the things we need to say.

But what about the time after the things have been said, while the fragile consciousness slowly slips away?

And it nears — this approaching shift, this moment, when we become the orphan?  We enter a stage of exquisite, unmatched drama.  What about this time?

It’s so close, yet so far away.  The way we measure time disappears entirely.  Hours.  Days.  Weeks.  These concepts lose their meaning.

Each moment in our lives become stretched to the snapping point, while we wait for the singular moment that we know, in days to come, we’ll never forget.

If we take the time to make a pot of coffee or take a walk or go to that Christmas party or take a long, long shower — this could have been time we could have put to other use.  This could have been time spent with Mom.  This could have been the last chance to see her alive.  What about that pot of coffee?  Or that…anything…

And is time itself really that precious?  So full of choice and possibility?  Did it take this long to learn something this simple?  This basic?

Certainly this applies to death and dying and loss, whether it’s a parent or another loved one.

But the loss of a parent is the one that has other implications.  It puts down a marker.

And I wait…


I just enjoyed Kent Bernhardt’s column in the Salisbury Post about tipping — and thought I’d weigh in.

I don’t tip much, because I don’t eat out much.  I rarely take taxis or stay in hotels or spend time on cruise ships.

But when I do, I love tipping!

It’s not just because I waited tables for many years.

I’ll never forget one night, in the mid 1980’s, when I worked at the Golden Palace Chinese Restaurant, off East Innes Street, in Salisbury.  At the time, I was a teacher, and we had two babies at home.

I had taught all day and waited tables all night.

It was an exceptionally good night.  I made $35 in tips.  I stopped at the 24/7 Kroger’s on the way home (currently the Office Depot building).  Most nights, I bought diapers.  Diapers were a lot thicker back then, and they would completely fill the back of my VW bug — such that I couldn’t see out the rear view.

This night, I noticed a sturdy set of dishes (plates, saucers, bowls — the works) for $35.  I bought ’em, and we used those dishes for many years.  I think we still have a few.

I also waited tables on a cruise ship (The Cunard Aventurer) in 1974, The Green Park Inn, in Blowing Rock, in 1981 — and several eateries here in Salisbury (including the aforementioned Golden Palace, for three years, as well as Shoney’s, Kent’s Sizzling Six, and a few others whose names I can’t presently remember).

Very few rich people wait tables.  Generally, when you leave an extra dollar or two, it’s a much needed dollar — and it gets put right back into the local economy.

I do make an exception for coffee.  If a cup of high end java costs $2, and I leave a dollar tip, then that’s a little expensive for a cup of coffee.  Usually, I leave only fifty cents.  Or, nothing at all, with a mental note to leave a dollar next time (which I do).

How does one increase the value of a gift?  Not by giving a bigger gift — but by giving to a person who really needs it.  If I gave Donald Trump a million dollars, it wouldn’t phase him.  If I gave Save the Children $28, it would literally save the life of a child.

Whether it be taxes, jobs, health insurance, food, housing, clothing, or quality education — whatever — those with lower incomes benefit more from any kind of generosity than the wealthy.

Which is why it amazes me that so many people who think so highly of religion and charity are also quick to scapegoat those in need for all our country’s problems.  Health care for all?  Bah!  Food stamps for the poor?  Bah!  Help for the unemployed?  Bah!  Infrastructure?  School construction?  Bah!  These expenditures get maximum value — but suddenly, the idea of helping those in need gets morphed into a weird discussion of the U.S. Constitution.  And Freedom.  I don’t get it.

In any case, tipping is not a gift. It’s pay. And it generally goes to a person who works really hard and really needs it.  Tip more.  Tip consistently (even if she’s too tired to smile).  And feel great about it.