Don’t Ask Your Elderly Parent This!
Questions an adult child should never ask their Jewish boomer parent.
Who doesn’t know that for We Boomer Jews, the question mark is our favorite form of punctuation? True, we can be a little intrusive, a little too curious, which could, on occasion, be misconstrued as offensive.
A simple inquiry from us to our kinder or their kinder, such as “So who are you seeing now?” brings on an explosion of psychobabble which ends with the word “boundaries.” We Boomers have boundaries. They’re just a little larger than most.
So today I’m reversing. As I’ve aged (but don’t look it) suddenly I’ve gone from “mom” to “Please God, don’t let her live with me” (unless gelt is involved).
The following are questions, that, as a Boomer, I’m now asked. Suddenly we’ve become fair game for them who now ask us questions – which might be construed as offensive.
Questions an Adult Child Should Never Ask a Boomer Parent:
1. “You always think you’re having a heart attack or stroke. Have you ever thought it might be indigestion?”
This is a bad question. Why? They’re in software. They know if it’s the real thing this time? They’ll only show up for the reading of the will? Should you be asked this question by your children, start with Step One. Immediately switch to “Joey.” Who’s Joey? The lovely young man next door who lost his poor mother under mysterious circumstances and has now “adopted” you. You cook for him and he runs all your errands and looks in on you daily. Step two: Use the basic tone of voice when asking “What was the name of your friend … who drew up my will? Trust me darlings, where there’s a will, there’s a way to get your kinder to come take your pulse.
2. “Why don’t you have a garage sale and dump your old books, eight tracks, and collections?”
God forbid we should tell them to quit staring at their palms for two seconds and maybe we’ll give up the Barry Sisters 78 rpm, our movie projector with the “How to Survive a Nuclear War” film, our “I LIKE IKE” buttons, or our original copy of Portnoy’s Complaint? Better we stay calm, and using the basic tone of voice say: “Darling, I hear the Barry Sisters are making a come-back in Natanya, and our buttons are listed in a rare Jewish collectible site, so our financial advisor (Cousin Eli) told us to hold on and by 2042 you’ll be a billionaire. However, if you still want me to junk them, who am I to say?” They’ll build a vault for your Howdy Doody lunchbox.
3. “Did your pacemaker open the garage door again?”
This question we get from our kinder whose computers set off the local Emergency Alert System when they were twelve. Our medical equipment is our business (including the unmarked packages) and according to the infomercial, it can’t open doors but it would be nice to see a decent child come through one. But why give guilt? Casually mention the nice Jewish widow in Connecticut, robbed by a knife-wielding gang member who got in through the garage. The thief wanted gelt to buy weeds or maybe Crystal Light. Add: “Oh, and she didn’t have a pacemaker, but maybe it was her hearing aid?”
4. “Wow! Was that really you in that photo ...? How long ago was that taken?!”
We need to be reminded that our center of gravity has shifted? That parts of us are hanging so low we could mop with them? That our faces look like a relief map of Bulgaria? But, do we want to shame them? Better to ask: “Well how old DO I look?” “How old do your friends think I look?” “How old would I look with make-up, a tummy sucker-inner, and a wig – if it’s dark out?” You can also add: “That photo was taken before you were born. I turned gray after the Caesarian.”
5. “Did you like the Clapper I got you?”
Have you seen the infomercial? The woman is older than Abraham. That’s how they think of us? A 110, with three strands of hair, chaloshing, clinging to the garbage disposal and clapping? This is not a compliment, mamalas. Calmly inform them you’re too weak to “clap” after all the clapping you did during their 1,000 school productions like “David and Goliath” when they played the slingshot.
6. “Do you think you’re forgetfulness is depression or dementia?”
We Boomer Jews scrimped and saved to send our children to medical school, and now, just because we occasionally forget our keys, our address, our car, and use Post-It Notes with the grandchildren’s names on them, they’re asking us for a “diagnoses?” Weren’t they were thrilled when we “forgot” about the student loans we took for them, the gelt advanced, the apartment we got them to study in a foreign country (because they couldn’t get into medical school in the U.S.) … and suddenly we’re senile, depressed? I recommend you gently remind them “If you finished your medical studies in Tunisia which I’m still paying for … you would know.”
7. “How hard is it to learn what a modem is?”
I said: “How hard is it to learn the name of one astronaut?” The other night on the game show with the Pyramid, a Millennial had to give a clue: The topic? “Famous Astronauts.” She mentioned a baseball player. Picture it! An entire nation of Boomer Jews screaming: MARTIN FETTMAN. (OK, Neil Armstrong.) In our lifetimes, we’ve learned “obsolete” things, such as how to write a word more than three letters, how to say a complete sentence, how to read a book that doesn’t come with an “e-“ before it, how to research or make a friend without clicking on a scary multi-national corporation that knows more about our X-Rays than we do and can sell them to foreign dictators. Back then it was one click, and Boom, something went on or off. Today, on click and we’re spammed, hacked, get viruses, have to update, and are ruled by a machine that decides what it will do and when. But this will only convince them we’re leaking too many brain cells to take in new information. Much better to say: “Mamala, I’ll learn what a modem is, when you learn to name the Presidents backward to Truman – without clicking.”