PARENTCARE -- MOST CHILDREN CARE FOR AGING PARENTS OUT OF DEVOTION _ OR GUILT; OTHERS IGNORE THEIR PARENTS ENTIRELY WILL THEY CARE FOR THEIR FOLKS? PROBABLY NOTI think if people knew what happened to me it would help them," she wrote.
On April 28, 1983, when she read a column in the Deseret News, it moved her and she cut it out. "Will the Kids Really Take Care of Their Folks?" was the headline. Now, five years later, she was writing to the Deseret News about his query."Back in 1983, I couldn't answer that question, but now I can answer it from my own experience. I think a lot of people would be happy to hear what I have to say."
So we called her, this woman who lives in Utah County. We wanted to hear her happy news. However, the news wasn't happy.
She spoke quickly. Her story is a burden she seems eager to share when she gets a chance.
It seems that she's helped her daughter quite a bit over the years - giving her and her children a home when the daughter was getting a divorce. Buying them food and clothes. Lending the daughter money so she could get a doctorate.
And now? Now, that the mother is aging and living within a mile of her daughter? Now let us hear the gentle ways in which she is cared for.
"I haven't seen her or my three grandchildren for a year and a half. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day come and go. My neighbors bring me dinner. My daughter never calls," says the mother.
"I asked her bishop to talk to her. He did. He came back and told me it was up to the two of us to work out a relationship.
"I called a lawyer and had her start trying to get my money back from my daughter. I need that money I spent on her Ph.D. My daughter said she would start paying when she has a `career.' But I think she's got a `job' now. The lawyer is also going to try to get me visitation with my grandchildren.
"My daughter wrote me a letter last November saying she wasn't quite ready to sit down with me and talk about our relationship. I haven't heard from her since."
The mother knows her daughter has had a tough time. The younger woman was hospitalized for depression and then couldn't find a job and went on welfare.
"I still love my daughter. I didn't walk out on her like she said I did because I didn't come to see her when she was in the hospital. I just thought seeing me might upset her.
"The main thing is the money. I'm not asking her to take care of me. I want my money back so I can take care of myself."
Dr. Victor Kassel has heard stories like this one before. He's a Salt Lake physician who has specialized in geriatrics since 1951.
Some of his patients care for themselves, some have help from relatives, some are in nursing homes. Kassel says he is quite regularly disappointed when he asks children of nursing home patients to come to his office. He wants to meet them and discuss the elderly person's condition. The adult children often won't bother to come.
"I call it the Law of Inverse Immigration," he says. "If parents have immigrated to America from another country - Greece, Sweden, whatever _ their children are concerned about them.
"After one generation, when the immigrants' children get old, their children care less about them. After two generations, forget it!
"Becoming Americanized means throwing the care onto a third party. The government or the church." Kassel says concern for family grew out of European social traditions. Social life and family life were intertwined. "Now we have autos, movies, parties, bridge . . . all these extraneous activities." We are willing to tolerate older relatives if they watch our children and don't interfere with the regular vacations we have come to think we deserve, he says.
But if they interfere with our lifestyle, watch out. "That word `lifestyle' drives me crazy," he says.