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Thought for the Day: Honoring Parents At All Ages

I had the pleasure and z'chus of hearing a shiur from R' Yerachmiel Fried, shlita, Rosh Kollel of the the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA).  R' Fried and the Dallas Kollel came to Dallas at a critical time in my families journey Orthodox Judaism and were a major force is encouraging us to move to Chicago.  Besides the hakaras hatov aspect of going to the shiur, there was also the topic: the challenges of honoring parents as they become older and infirm.  While I, unfortunately, do not have this challenge for my own parents (who have both left this world), I do have in-laws who are, Baruch HaShem, aging and are not yet infirm.  Moreover -- and just as important -- I am aging and will, G-d Willing, continue to do that for the foreseeable future; there are preparations I can make now that will help my children going forward.

Last things first.  R' Fried noted that one of the problems for us is when/if parents reach the stage where they are unable to fully comprehend the necessities of certain procedures.  This can be particularly challenging when dealing with a parent, lo aleinu, who is suffering from dementia.  (Note: Dementia is the problem.  Alzheimer's is a diagnosis, dementia is a symptom.)  For example, restraining a parent or even speaking harshly to them may run afoul of the kavod that the Torah demands we show our parents.  Therefore, one should sit down to have a serious discussion with their parents now, while they are lucid, and obtain their forgiveness ahead of time for any required actions that -- while it is certainly and completely for their benefit and is done with love and all possible sensitivity -- may annoy them and even cause them pain (physical and emotional).  The counterpoint to that is what we -- as aging parents ourselves -- should assure our children that we forgive and pardon them for any procedures that they will need to authorize and/or inflict on us.

R' Fried ended with a ma'aseh to put all the details in context.  A mother was living on her own for many years.  The children saw that the rugs were starting to curl up at the edges and were worried about their mother tripping, Chav v'Shalom, and hurting herself or worse.  They decided, therefore, to buy new rugs for their mother's apartment.  They used their own money (they had the means and were happy to do that) and had the rugs changed while they took Mom out to dinner.  Upon their return, they were surprised my Mom's reaction to their "surprise":
Mom: Who said you could change my rugs? Put back the old ones.
Them: But, Mom, they were curling up at the edges; we were worried you could trip!
Mom: Who said you could change my rugs? Put back the old ones.
Them: But, Mom, we paid for all of it and they are just like the old ones!
Mom: Who said you could change my rugs? Put back the old ones.
Them: Sigh... fine...
After the old rugs had been returned, Mom said: "You know, I agree with you that the rugs are old and the curling at the edges could be dangerous. Please replace them." Annoying, right? Yes, it was very annoying that the children treated their mother with such extreme disrespect. Taking anyone's property without their permission -- even for their benefit -- is straight out m'd'oraisa stealing. Taking a parent's things without permission is at least a breach of common derech eretz and almost surely a violation of the commandment (one of the Big 10, in fact) to honor one's parents.

Kibud av v'em doesn't stop just because you are now taller and have a family of your own.  I have a good friend who has found a very positive way to deal with his childrens lapses in kibud av.  When he get frustrated that they haven't called recently... he calls his mom.


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