Golden Moments: the silver lining of aging.

Reflections on the day Mom died.

On Friday, September 27, my eighty-seven-year-old dad, who often has trouble sleeping, got up at 3 a.m. In the independent-living apartment he shared with my mom, he took a few steps from the bedroom to the tiny kitchenette to get a bite to eat. He grabbed a pita bread, then took a few more steps to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a scotch.

As he sat on the living room couch enjoying his snack and his “middle-of-the-night-cap,” my mom, eight-six, appeared with her walker at the bedroom doorway.

“Do I hear the tinkling of ice-cubes?” she asked.

“Yes!” Dad answered.

His “yes” would have been enthusiastic and drawn out, both arms and one scotch raised in celebration, his eyebrows raised like a character in a Norman Rockwell painting.

“Does that mean you’d like a shot of bourbon (Mom’s preferred liquor)?” he added.

It meant exactly that. So Mom shuffled to the couch while Dad fixed her drink. They sat for about fifteen minutes, holding hands until Dad broke the silence.

“Whoever said these were the golden years could not have been a day over fifty,” Dad said. “There’s not much golden about getting old.”

There’s not much golden about the “golden years.”

Mom agreed. She would know

Two years ago, she had heart surgery from which she never completely recovered. At times, she seemed to be on the mend, then a UTI or stomach bug or new medication would spiral her back down and we’d wonder if we were going to lose her.

In the past month, though, she gained strength and spirit and seemed to be on a solid rebound. She had asked my sister and me to plan a joint visit for a “girls weekend,” which we hadn’t done in years. I had booked my flight for tomorrow.

Sitting on the couch with his wife of sixty-three years, Dad found the silver lining of another color.

“But, truly,” he said, “this is a Golden Moment.”

Golden Moments are the silver lining of aging.

I’ve enjoyed Golden Moments with my parents, too.

After I graduated from college in 1980, I never returned home to Pittsburgh. Between my relocation to Troy, NY–my husband’s hometown–and my parents’ moves later in life, I’ve lived anywhere from 500 to 3,000 miles away from them.

When I came into town to visit, I usually didn’t make plans to catch up with friends or to sight-see or take side trips. I preferred to spend my precious little time with my long-distance family.

Once, my sister-in-law asked me, “So what are you going to do while you’re out here?” I was dumbfounded. I wanted to say, “Nothing,” because that was the truth. But it seemed so boring. It seemed small compared to the jet-setting lifestyles of some of my siblings. I can’t remember how I answered.

I’m not suggesting that there’s a right or a wrong way to spend time while visiting family. I wish I had been better about keeping in touch with friends. But I have no regrets about the Golden Moments with my parents. Especially now.

My golden moments give me no regrets.

In their living room at the independent living facility, Mom and Dad sat and held hands for another fifteen minutes, enjoying the silence before going back to bed.

Dad would have followed Mom into the bedroom. He would have put her neck pillow in place and raised or lowered the head of the bed to the perfect angle. He’d have arranged another pillow under her ankles so her painful heels didn’t bear any weight. Then he would have tucked Mom’s favorite pink blanket under her chin and she’d be asleep before Dad made it to his side of the bed.

That evening, after an uneventful day, Mom and Dad again sat on the couch, watching the PBS News Hour. Around 7 PM, Mom stood up, pitched forward, and was probably dead before she hit the floor.

My heart aches that Dad witnessed that scene. I grieve for his loss. I grieve for my family and many friends who loved Mom. I grieve for myself and the loss of my best girlfriend.

I lost my best girlfriend.

Tomorrow, I’ll fly down to visit Dad. Instead of a girl’s weekend, it will be a father-daughter week. Dad and I will sit on the couch, holding hands, sharing a drink, enjoying our Golden Moments. Mom will join us and I’ll feel her hand in mine. I feel it every day. It’s golden.

I have a new page up on my website: Ten Signs You May be a People-Pleaser. I hope you’ll check it out!

No Comments

  1. Janis on October 9, 2019 at 2:52 PM

    Ohhh Karen lump in throat and tears streaming down. Your words put me right in the moment and makes me come to the quick realization that these roles will be played out in another way in our future. Let’s make a pact to spend as much time as we can with our kids!! Love you

    • Karen DeBonis on October 9, 2019 at 7:11 PM

      You’re so right, Janis. We’ll blink, and it will be us shuffling around with our walkers and hopefully, our kids will hold our hand. I think we should start practicing. Love ya back!

  2. MaryEllen on October 9, 2019 at 4:48 PM

    I am one of the women of the Gathering that your mother assembled over 30 years ago as we shared our faith journey through readings, prayer and stories. She still participated via phone after she moved away. We were fortunate to have a brief conversation with her a few weeks ago. Her influence in my life has been such a a game changer in how I approach family, faith , friends and self. Grateful to have known such a friend in my life that has a presence across the miles and now the cosmos♥️

    • Karen DeBonis on October 9, 2019 at 7:18 PM

      MaryEllen, thank you for that beautiful tribute to my mom! She often talked fondly about the Gathering. She will be thrilled to know – and she DOES know because she’s closer to us than ever – that she was a positive influence for you. She certainly was a positive influence for me. Blessings to you.

  3. judy lawless on October 9, 2019 at 11:02 PM

    A beautiful and powerful writing, Karen. I love that idea of golden moments. Your dad is a wise man.❤️

    • Karen DeBonis on October 9, 2019 at 11:29 PM

      Thanks Judy. He is wise, indeed, and he’ll be thrilled with the compliment!

  4. Jack Herlocker on October 10, 2019 at 12:40 AM

    Beautiful, moving, and loving tribute, Karen. Condolences and hugs for your loss.

  5. Heather Spitzberg on October 10, 2019 at 2:40 AM

    Very moving, Karen. Peace.

  6. Laura on October 11, 2019 at 4:40 PM

    Oh Karen, I’m so very sorry for your loss. It sounds like you and your parents had a similar relationship to what I have with mine. More friends with the benefits of parenting (don’t cringe 😬 too hard that I made a friends with benefits analogy related to parents… it was meant to make you 😃 and 😆). ❤️

    • Karen DeBonis on October 11, 2019 at 5:55 PM

      Laura, don’t worry – I smiled and chuckled. Thanks for your concern, and enjoy your golden moments!

  7. Debbie Kirsch on October 12, 2019 at 4:14 AM

    Karen, my heart goes out to your dad, and to you, of course. You are correct about spending the time doing “nothing”, when visiting with parents. Or as we used to call it for about 5+ years post-college: HOME-home. A silly phrase, but everyone of an age understood it exactly.

    During college when I went Hh on vacations, I was always running around visiting. But as you did, that changed for me. And I will always be glad it did.

    Many years later, my mother gone, my dad’s 2nd wife (who I had known ALL my life) sadly also gone, I sat at my father’s bedside listening to his unconscious breaths farther and farther apart, I did not want to be there. He wanted hospice at home, but when he stopped breathing, it was I who comforted the home health aide who had become so fond of him. That’s why I feel so much for your dad, being right there.

    I wish you both peace and comfort in those golden times you spend now. After my mom passed, I did treasure the times I purposely spent with my dad,a 4-hr drive away. He came up here to visit me too.
    Then the newly-married couple moved to Florida, and it was about a 4- hr trip, in all, which I made as often as I could. I am so glad I spent the time with them, then just him sga8j by

    • Karen DeBonis on October 12, 2019 at 12:26 PM

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Debbie. I love the HOME-home phrase- it’s not silly at all. It’s how I’m spending my time right now, visiting my dad. I’ll pass on your good wishes to ​him.

  8. Debbie Kirsch on October 12, 2019 at 4:23 AM

    continuation: spend time with them, then just him again. I still have some really clear, good memories from those times, tho this was the early 1990”s.

    Bless you and your father!


  9. Matt on October 12, 2019 at 10:26 AM

    This was beautiful, Mom.

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