In Praise of Parents (or, Talk to My Dad)

 

For a long time, I’ve had a bit of a sting when it came to not having kids. It was something that was thrown in my face as a way to devalue my opinions or me as a person.  (I could stay late “because [I] don’t have kids” … I can’t have an opinion on politics “because [I] don’t have kids …” It doesn’t matter what I did this weekend, because it was just me doing it.) 

But, as my Dad gets older, I am starting to see something that parents must deal with a lot, and for which they deserve praise.

My Dad lives alone after my Mom, his high-school sweetheart to whom he married nearly 60 years ago, died.

He still gets out and does things and one hobby, in particular, is photography. He takes thousands of pictures a year and always has. 

For the past four weeks, he’s been really excited about this photo group meeting. They were going to bring three pictures each that would be shown in a presentation. Each photographer would get a chance to talk about their photos to the group. And there would be mingling before and after. 

We do video calls twice a week, and email almost daily, and, like I say, for the past four weeks, he’d describe the pictures he was going to show, talk about which ones he might swap out, talk about what he’d say, talked about meeting people … it was great to see because he was so excited after a pretty rough couple of years. He was like a little kid. 

Well, last night the photo group met. All Dad could say today was “I’m not sure I’ll go to these meetings again. Nobody talked to me. They were all in cliques.” 

It just broke my heart. I’m actually crying as I write this. The thought of my Dad just standing there, name tag on, looking at his shoes … trying to make eye contact and join a conversation and being rebuffed. He was probably there for a good 30 minutes before the show and at least as long afterward. That must have felt like an eternity to him … it’s just awful.

Yeah, my Dad (and I) can be pretty gruff-looking and neither one of us is good at starting up a conversation. But my Dad takes beautiful pictures and he’s unwaveringly loyal to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a special guy. Why wouldn’t people just talk to him? Is it that damn hard to say “hi” to an older guy standing by himself?

And as I write this, I hear the voice of my Mom, talking about me or my sister and I realize it’s what you parents must feel with your own special ones, as you send them off to school or birthday parties or whatever, hoping they’ll be included, that they’ll have fun and that all the excitement they’ve been building up will be rewarded. 

I guess I never really thought about that, so I praise you all for the bravery to face that when you send them out the door.  

And please, if you’re part of a photo club in Cincinnati, talk to my Dad. 

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  1. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    I’m so sorry for you and your dad. It’s awful to know someone you love being so disheartened and discouraged. Please do encourage him to go again – the first time of a new engagement is often dreadful, or at least very hard. And – people do tend to stick to talking with those they know and have done something with before. So many of the activities are re-starting after being shut down and people are catching up and all. Don’t try and talk him out of being embarrassed or discouraged, but speak to his love of his photography and how much enthusiasm others have for it as well. 
    I think: while you don’t have children – you’d have been a great dad. You don’t have to have children to recognize and encourage the lives of others. You can want what they want solely because they want it and you love them and cheer them and love them with abandon when they go for it. 

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Your story brought a tear to my eye as well.  My heart broke for him, particularly because he was so excited and I could picture him there dejected.  You would think that someone would have had the awareness to understand that he needed to be welcomed.   When I hold a function, I go out of my way to act as a hostess, to make sure that everyone has someone to talk to.  But many organizers don’t make this effort.

    It reminded me of my mother who like your Dad had to go out on her own after my father died.  They too were married 60 years. We tried to get her to go to Senior Citizens but after a few tries, she stopped.  I think it was for the same reason as you Dad.  I could imagine that when she walked in to a function, everyone was off in groups and she, not being extremely social, likely stood there with nothing to do.  When she could no longer drive and her memory started to go, I signed her up for a senior program.  But this time I went down ahead of time and talked to the directors and I asked if when I brought her down, they could make a big fuss over her and take her around.  And they did.  She loved it and looked forward to going twice a week.  

    • #2
  3. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    What’s Dad’s name?

    Bring Him Here. We’ll welcome Him with open arms.

    • #3
  4. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    ago

    Edit to add: remember to bring pictures.

    • #4
  5. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    It used to be (and should still be) the job of the social host to (at least try to) ensure all guests were welcomed and included. It’s a bit in our nature to be thoughtless – thus the host role as a remedy.

    Your Dad is understandably discouraged. That type of experience can jolt anyone just as it can happen to anyone no matter your age. Hopefully he can find one member of the group to welcome him in.

     

    • #5
  6. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    My suspicion is that the group had had previous in-person meetings before and those people already knew each other.  Yes, someone should be tasked with welcoming new guests/members and helping them mix in.  But I suspect if any group is likely to be full of introverts, photography would be at the top of my list.  Someone will really need to make an effort.

    • #6
  7. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    I saw this happen with my daughter through middle school. A sweet thing, very smart, but simply could not get accepted by the girls she really liked. They weren’t mean or anything, they just did not include her for birthday parties, etc. It was so sad, and I still don’t understand it. 
    I hope your Dad will try again. Or maybe bring someone he knows, so he won’t feel so alone.

    • #7
  8. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hi Juliana, did you get relocated yet?  :-)

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Geez, that was sad.  I never could understand people just cutting a person off.  Just a total lack of class.

    It might be radical but it could be time for a total change.  I know my wife didn’t want to move to a retirement community but when she realized how hard it was keeping our large house (and lot) going, she realized I wasn’t going to be around forever to do the heavy lifting.

    Now, she’d never leave our place.  New friends, a ton of things to do and support groups aplenty.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    For whatever reason, I won’t speculate, but widows do seem to get involved with new groups etc, easier than widowers.

    • #10
  11. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    I am so sorry to hear this; I hope he can find a group that welcomes him. 

    Post some of his pictures here; I, for one, will be happy to “like” any image he posts. I’ll take your word that he does good work.

    • #11
  12. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    I am so sorry to hear this; I hope he can find a group that welcomes him.

    Post some of his pictures here; I, for one, will be happy to “like” any image he posts. I’ll take your word that he does good work.

    I woke up thinking about this post this morning and had the same idea!  Have him post pictures here or even hold a Zoom session where he can show his pictures and talk about them.  I’ll come.  

    • #12
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Surely there is another group of avid photographers who would welcome him with open arms.  If an option, he could take a class somewhere (though he doesn’t need to) and make connections that way.  I have a cousin who took up photography in earnest after she retired.  Nice people are out there, its just very tough to find them…at any age.

    • #13
  14. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    kedavis (View Comment):

    For whatever reason, I won’t speculate, but widows do seem to get involved with new groups etc, easier than widowers.

    A woman at another blog said, “We (women) are the mobile gender.”  She went on the say that over the centuries, women had often been captured in raids at brought to live with a new tribe; hence, they needed to develop the skills to navigate new social settings.

    • #14
  15. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    David Foster (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    For whatever reason, I won’t speculate, but widows do seem to get involved with new groups etc, easier than widowers.

    A woman at another blog said, “We (women) are the mobile gender.” She went on the say that over the centuries, women had often been captured in raids at brought to live with a new tribe; hence, they needed to develop the skills to navigate new social settings.

    We also are the verbal sex

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    For whatever reason, I won’t speculate, but widows do seem to get involved with new groups etc, easier than widowers.

    A woman at another blog said, “We (women) are the mobile gender.” She went on the say that over the centuries, women had often been captured in raids at brought to live with a new tribe; hence, they needed to develop the skills to navigate new social settings.

    We also are the verbal sex

    • #16
  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Is it at all possible that your dad might have a slight hearing problem? Perhaps just when there is background noise?

    It shows up in social situations sometimes in that people say something that the person with hearing impairment doesn’t respond to either with a facial expression or a nod or a word or two, and so the person who tried to initiate a conversation with a weak friendly overture turns away. It’s sad to see it happen with hearing-impaired people. And it’s pretty common.

    • #17
  18. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Is it at all possible that your dad might have a slight hearing problem? Perhaps just when there is background noise?

    It shows up in social situations sometimes in that people say something that the person with hearing impairment doesn’t respond to either with a facial expression or a nod or a word or two, and so the person who tried to initiate an conversation with the weak friendly overture turns away. It’s sad to see it happen with hearing-impaired people. And it’s pretty common.

    That’s a good point. 

    • #18
  19. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    EODmom (View Comment):

    I’m so sorry for you and your dad. It’s awful to know someone you love being so disheartened and discouraged. Please do encourage him to go again – the first time of a new engagement is often dreadful, or at least very hard. And – people do tend to stick to talking with those they know and have done something with before. So many of the activities are re-starting after being shut down and people are catching up and all. Don’t try and talk him out of being embarrassed or discouraged, but speak to his love of his photography and how much enthusiasm others have for it as well.
    I think: while you don’t have children – you’d have been a great dad. You don’t have to have children to recognize and encourage the lives of others. You can want what they want solely because they want it and you love them and cheer them and love them with abandon when they go for it.

    Thank you, that’s one of the nicest things anyone has said to me. 

    And, yeah, that’s great advice for what he does next. He does want to get out and meet people, so maybe there’s just a better group — or a better time with this group — in the future. 

    • #19
  20. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    I am so sorry to hear this; I hope he can find a group that welcomes him.

    Post some of his pictures here; I, for one, will be happy to “like” any image he posts. I’ll take your word that he does good work.

    I woke up thinking about this post this morning and had the same idea! Have him post pictures here or even hold a Zoom session where he can show his pictures and talk about them. I’ll come.

    Thank you both! I’ll see what he says when we chat this weekend. 

    • #20
  21. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Is it at all possible that your dad might have a slight hearing problem? Perhaps just when there is background noise?

    It shows up in social situations sometimes in that people say something that the person with hearing impairment doesn’t respond to either with a facial expression or a nod or a word or two, and so the person who tried to initiate a conversation with a weak friendly overture turns away. It’s sad to see it happen with hearing-impaired people. And it’s pretty common.

    So, thank you, that’s a good thought and he does have a slight hearing problem. (When folks went to masks I noticed it got “worse” and then I realize he probably had been reading lips for awhile, even if it was subconscious.

    I have gently asked about hearing aids with him, maybe it’s time for a follow up. Though, in fairness, even when Mom was alive, he absolutely would not even think about a hearing aid. Something about it is a real hangup with him. But, even if this wasn’t the cause of what happened the other night, it certainly couldn’t have helped. 

    • #21
  22. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    BillJackson (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Is it at all possible that your dad might have a slight hearing problem? Perhaps just when there is background noise?

    @marciN you are brilliant. I agree completely. As a hearing aid user – I can’t urge you strongly enough to take it up with him directly again. Don’t be gentle – be direct and matter of fact because it is absolutely ordinary.

    Hearing loss is terribly isolating and the things we do to compensate are 1. Usually ineffective and 2. Potentially disturbing to those around us. Like: someone asks you a question and you answer what you THINK they asked because you’re too embarrassed to ask them to repeat it.   If your answer is far enough off base they may think you’re weird…. Or – you give just bad information and someone relies on it. Most often we just check out and people think we are not interested. Or rude. Any one of those can be a real obstacle to making a new friend. And – he’s just missing out and probably can’t hear the presenters in the group well either. Ask him specifically if he could hear the others talk about their work.  

    My loss was probably from damage as a child from very high fever and progressed as I got older.  I should have gotten them in my 40’s when I was still working but did not because of vanity. Plain old vanity. I have worn glasses since I was 4 but hearing aids just screamed OLD. I was really hindered in larger conference rooms and hearing young women. Vanity is a terrible hindrance.  The really excellent selling point is that the devices now are superb. They vary from very simple/straightforward to robust/complex and almost wash the dishes. But they are generally very discreet and manageable for mature hands.  If he can manage a camera he can insert the batteries to the aids and get them in his ear.  Have his hearing checked! That process too can be intimidating, but there is no discomfort involved, it takes about an hour and each of my audiologists has been very kind. They make a huge difference in people’s lives. Go with him – you’ll be astounded. Tell him there for sure will be children in the office. 

     

    • #22
  23. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The hearing-loss aspect is indeed a great catch.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    EODmom (View Comment):
    marciN you are brilliant.

    That’s getting blown up to 80-point type and going on my office wall. :-)

    In fact, I’m getting a t-shirt printed with it to wear around my kids so they will take me seriously. :-) :-)

    I hope it helps. His wife must have noticed it too. :-) I hope he takes your advice and gets a test and some hearing aids.

    When my mom needed cataract surgery, she was terrified. It makes me tear up to think about this, but my husband said, “If you go, I promise to take you to your most favorite restaurant for dinner that night.” She had the surgery, and he kept his promise. There she was, sitting in this beautiful restaurant with a very red eye, having a wonderful time. :-) :-)

    • #24
  25. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MarciN (View Comment):

    EODmom (View Comment):
    marciN you are brilliant.

    That’s getting blown up to 80-point type and going on my office wall. :-)

    In fact, I’m getting a t-shirt printed with it to wear around my kids so they will take me seriously. :-) :-)

    I hope it helps. His wife must have noticed it too. :-) I hope he takes your advice and gets a test and some hearing aids.

    When my mom needed cataract surgery, she was terrified. It makes me tear up to think about this, but my dear husband said, “Nancy, if you go, I promise to take you to your most favorite restaurant for dinner that night.” She went, he kept his promise. There she was sitting in this beautiful restaurant with a very red eye, having a wonderful time. :-) :-)

    I hope the restaurant didn’t call in Senior Protection.  :-)

    • #25
  26. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    As the mother of four, I can honestly say that your experience is worse. All of my children had negative social interactions when growing up, but it was always an opportunity to say: hey. Remember how this feels. When you see someone lonely or excluded, it’s on you to reach out because now you know.

    I had a couple of rough years growing up with bullies; the stories have become somewhat legend and exaggerated. But again, when my kids were young, I could always say: don’t do to anyone what I had done to me. 

    So it was no joke with kids. I can imagine with parents it would be much, much worse.

    I read this post last night and thought about your father all evening. I have always made a point to be outgoing and friendly to older people when I’m out and about. I’m appalled to report I’ve noticed people have begun to treat me that way …

    • #26
  27. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Costco is the champion for relatively low cost hearing aids. They will do the test, too. Sam’s Club is lower rated in satisfaction. 

    I got Costco hearing aids about five years ago, which helped a lot at the time. They were something like $1500 back then.

    My hearing got worse, and they were no longer useful. The loss grew from significant to “profound”. My hearing problems are partially genetic (I had high frequency loss even as a kid). It was worsened by shooting range ignorance (nobody took care of their ears at the range when I was young) combined with too many rock concerts.

    Fortunately my insurance came up with big bucks coverage, so I was able to get a serious pair ($5K) fully covered. They are far more sophisticated than the Costco pair, so I am back to better (but not close to perfect) hearing.

    All that said, hearing aids are not magic. I have modes for car, restaurant, etc. But really they are all just frequency contours and you have to experiment to find out what works.

    Finally: hearing aids are close to becoming unregulated. You can already buy hearing aids (in all but the name) in the open market. You’ll find a lot of them for sale at Amazon, for example. If you have moderate loss, you can get help for a few hundred dollars.

    If you want a hearing test, an audiologist will do one (for a fee) but you are not under obligation to buy from that audiologist. I even took an online hearing test, which was roughly consistent with the results I got from a ‘real’ test.

    When they become fully unregulated, you’ll see the market drive down the average costs to a much lower number, and a lot of people will be far more able to afford help.

    • #27
  28. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    Annefy (View Comment):

    As the mother of four, I can honestly say that your experience is worse. All of my children had negative social interactions when growing up, but it was always an opportunity to say: hey. Remember how this feels. When you see someone lonely or excluded, it’s on you to reach out because now you know.

    I had a couple of rough years growing up with bullies; the stories have become somewhat legend and exaggerated. But again, when my kids were young, I could always say: don’t do to anyone what I had done to me.

    So it was no joke with kids. I can imagine with parents it would be much, much worse.

    I read this post last night and thought about your father all evening. I have always made a point to be outgoing and friendly to older people when I’m out and about. I’m appalled to report I’ve noticed people have begun to treat me that way …

    That’s really interesting, because I was thinking most of last night that if I had a kid I probably would have a harder time than I had last night. 

    I guess either way it’s pretty rough, and while I did end with imploring people to talk to my Dad, I really had meant it as an appreciation of something that parents just have to deal with and how I realized just how hard it is. 

    • #28
  29. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    Costco is the champion for relatively low cost hearing aids. They will do the test, too. Sam’s Club is lower rated in satisfaction.

    I got Costco hearing aids about five years ago, which helped a lot at the time. They were something like $1500 back then.

    My hearing got worse, and they were no longer useful. The loss grew from significant to “profound”. My hearing problems are partially genetic (I had high frequency loss even as a kid). It was worsened by shooting range ignorance (nobody took care of their ears at the range when I was young) combined with too many rock concerts.

    Fortunately my insurance came up with big bucks coverage, so I was able to get a serious pair ($5K) fully covered. They are far more sophisticated than the Costco pair, so I am back to better (but not close to perfect) hearing.

    All that said, hearing aids are not magic. I have modes for car, restaurant, etc. But really they are all just frequency contours and you have to experiment to find out what works.

    Finally: hearing aids are close to becoming unregulated. You can already buy hearing aids (in all but the name) in the open market. You’ll find a lot of them for sale at Amazon, for example. If you have moderate loss, you can get help for a few hundred dollars.

    If you want a hearing test, an audiologist will do one (for a fee) but you are not under obligation to buy from that audiologist. I even took an online hearing test, which was roughly consistent with the results I got from a ‘real’ test.

    When they become fully unregulated, you’ll see the market drive down the average costs to a much lower number, and a lot of people will be far more able to afford help.

    Deregulation and the technology advance to further enable adjustments. It’s more software now and many can adjust on their own. They can’t “fix” as much in ears as they can eyes, but the technology is moving fast. 

    • #29
  30. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    BillJackson (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    As the mother of four, I can honestly say that your experience is worse. All of my children had negative social interactions when growing up, but it was always an opportunity to say: hey. Remember how this feels. When you see someone lonely or excluded, it’s on you to reach out because now you know.

    I had a couple of rough years growing up with bullies; the stories have become somewhat legend and exaggerated. But again, when my kids were young, I could always say: don’t do to anyone what I had done to me.

    So it was no joke with kids. I can imagine with parents it would be much, much worse.

    I read this post last night and thought about your father all evening. I have always made a point to be outgoing and friendly to older people when I’m out and about. I’m appalled to report I’ve noticed people have begun to treat me that way …

    That’s really interesting, because I was thinking most of last night that if I had a kid I probably would have a harder time than I had last night.

    I guess either way it’s pretty rough, and while I did end with imploring people to talk to my Dad, I really had meant it as an appreciation of something that parents just have to deal with and how I realized just how hard it is.

    Maybe so – but some of us really envy your deep connection with your dad. Love for our children and our aches for them when things are rocky are different of course, but still heartaches. But the same as with one’s children – you’ll have that connection your whole lives. I envy you. 

    • #30
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