Respect for Elders

I was a bit flabbergasted when a recent caller to my radio program described how incredibly resentful she was that her elderly aunt, deep in Alzheimer’s Disease, would repeat and repeat and repeat old history again and again and again.  This caller was furious that her aunt wouldn’t recognize her, wouldn’t deal with the here and now, and was so “unbelievably annoying with the same old stories.”

What pressed my “flabbergasted” button the most was that this caller had been neglected and abandoned by her mother and father and had been raised by this aunt.  Notions of gratitude, graciousness, patience and, above all, respect seemed beyond her view, as she was simply focused on what she wasn’t getting from her aunt now.  This caller was no sensitive, confused, naïve teenager – she was in her late forties!

I explained that the word shouldn’t be “wouldn’t;” it is, indeed, “couldn’t.”  It was as though the caller was hauling her resentment about her abandonment by her parents into this “mental abandonment” by her aunt, and making the decision not to see her aunt anymore out of ancient, misplaced rage.

By the end of the call, I think she understood and realized that, as uncomfortable and annoying as her aunt’s behavior might be, she was as honor-bound to be there for her aunt, as the aunt had been there for her.