Tag Archive for: parents

“Do you know what Dad did?”

We’ve talked about transitions this month. Transitions in our writing careers. Transitions in manuscripts. A different kind of transition has been keeping me up at night–transitions in families. Perhaps it isn’t surprising. After all, “family” is a central theme in my stories for a reason. 

These days, my sleepless nights begin with a call from my brother: “Do you know what Dad did this time?” 

Aging is weird enough in this country. Didn’t the Baby Boomers firmly establish that they would never get old? Oh wait, that’s a different story. This one is called, Your Parents Are Getting Old.

Now we’ve all heard about the hip grandpa who programs his TV and house security with his smartphone. Mine routinely calls AOL (from his landline since he forgets to charge his cell) and asks them for his password. One of my neighbors (my husband and I want to be Holly when we grow up) not only plays a great game of golf, he took up roping calves at age 80. At 82, he competes on the rodeo circuit. Instead of tying cattle with ropes, my dad is tethered to an oxygen generator. 

Life is a roll of the dice, right? Genetics, life style, accidents, wrong place/wrong time. No way to know what we’ll be like when we reach our 80s. So my approach to the single remaining member of my personal “great generation” is hugs and love you’s. 

Those two expressions make us feel valued. They nurture our souls, offering emotional and physical well being for both the giver and the recipient. Think about how often you shared them with your children, your friends and your spouse. Unfortunately (hmm, another transition?) the frequency seems to lessen with age. While you may be thinking about a jerk of an ex right now, I remember after my mother-in-law died, how my father-in-law craved touch. A simple pat on the arm, a hug. I see you. You aren’t alone. 

This weekend, instead of heading to New Orleans for Bouchercon, the mystery/suspense conference, I’m bound for my hometown. I’ll sit with my father for what I suspect may be the last time. To give him a hug and say not just “I love you,” but also, “Tell Mama I still love and miss her, when you see her in heaven.”


Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and
dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first
novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories.
When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond
height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South
Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs
and the resident deer herd.

Catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter.

The Creaky Joint Gets the Grease

by Susan McBride

I’ve been helping my parents move this past week, and it hasn’t been easy. I feel bad for my mother who loves her old house (built in 1921 with green tile roof, original stained glass, and character coming out the wazoo). It’s been hardest on her as she told us once, “I want to die in this place.” But my dad’s bum knees and back made it tough for him to go up and down stairs (and that house had plenty of them). So they put Casa McBride up for sale a year ago and looked at ranch houses, finding one they both really liked. Only their house didn’t sell. It was on the market for months and months, and no bites except for a man who looked twice with his fiance, nearly made an offer, and then decided he didn’t really like his fiance anymore. This year, they hired a different realtor, started at a bargain basement price (something Mom was not willing to do a year ago), and they sold within a month. Thankfully, they found their new house just in time. They closed on it last Wednesday. The buyers closed on their old house yesterday.

For the past few weeks, it’s been Crazy City with my mom trying to clear out stuff that she couldn’t take to a house 1,000 square feet smaller than Big Old House. She had my sister come in town from NYC to go through all the crap she’d stored in their basement (and closets and third floor). Molly hardly got rid of it all, but did fill several Goodwill bins. Then my brother (who is married with two kids and has a plenty-big house of his own) finally took everything belonging to him that they’d been keeping for years and years, too. Even still, there was too much to move. So last weekend, they had an estate sale of lovely antiques (and, yes, some junk) that Mom had collected for 30 to 40 years. It went fabulously with about 75% selling on the first day and another 15% selling on Sunday for half-price. (Um, anyone want a 17″ x 21″ rug, a chrome and glass coffee table circa 1972, or a very old French baker’s rack?)

My aunt, uncle, and I helped them load a U-Haul before the real movers came. Mom didn’t want movers doing any packing of boxes. We moved about five or six times when I was growing up (Dad worked for IBM = I’ve Been Moved), so Mom’s an expert packer. Well, she packs by kind of throwing anything within reach into one box and then moving onto the next. Precision-packing it ain’t, but it gets the job done. We filled the rental truck with box after box after box, finally shoving in anything else that wasn’t bolted down that we could lift. We unloaded it all at their new house the next day then went back again for another load. Oy!

I’ll be 45 in October, and I usually feel a decade younger (have to keep up with my husband who’s, er, 35). But after all that bending, lifting, and carrying my right knee and hip felt about 100. I used to pride myself on being so athletic and flexible. I was a gymnast, a cheerleader, a Varsity track star (okay, a really slow star, like one who trips over the finish line after finishing last in the 400 meters). What had happened to me?

I can’t even blame it on the breast cancer. That was 2-1/2 years ago, and I’ve got nearly full range of motion in my left arm/shoulder and darned good strength again. I hired a personal trainer once I was cleared by my surgeon, and Nicole whipped me into great shape before my wedding in February of 2008. I kept to that routine even after I couldn’t afford Nicole anymore (or at least, justify spending $60 an hour on Nicole several times a week), and I felt as good as I’ve ever felt. Until my deadline crunch this year with two books due within five months of each other nearly killed me. My Epstein-Barr flared up again, which is like having mono revisit. Oh, joy! I felt drained, exhausted, tearful. The only way I could write 24/7 and get the books done was to drop everything else I could possibly drop. Yep, I stopped exercising.

Now I’ve got everything turned in, and I’ve started testing the exercise waters again. I went to Nicole’s Pilates class several times to check it out, and I’m hooked. It’s like one of those things where you feel like you’re doing something but you’re not sure how much because you aren’t dripping profusely with sweat…and then the next day you can hardly move. I wish I’d had about a month or two of those classes before The Great Parental Move. I feel like a wimp.

I read somewhere that it takes 10 days to lose the benefits of regular exercise and at least 10 weeks to regain it. That hardly seems fair. I just wish someone could invent WD-40 for humans. “One squirt and you’re silent as a well-oiled door hinge!” It’d make billions.