Seniors, Then and Now
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

Seniors, Then and Now

Shaindle Schmuckler remembers the pre-Florida days, when everyone stayed in the Bronx.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Then: We never called our grandparents grandma, grandpa, bubbe, or zayde, or some derivative of their given names. I cannot even recall when I discovered their actual given names. (Abraham and Fanny, for those of you who are overwhelmed with curiosity.)

We always called them Mama and Papa, which is how my own parents, aunts, uncles, mama and papa’s customers in the fish market, our friends and our parents’ friends, referred to them.

Mama, Papa, my mom and dad, aunts and uncles shared one huge apartment, with only one bathroom and one kitchen, until each married or started their own families. One by one they longed for and worked toward the American dream.

Empty nest syndrome was not in our vernacular yet, and besides, their oldest daughter, her husband and her two children lived with mama and papa even after they made their big move up the street to the apartment building in which the rest of the family lived. After my aunt and uncle’s two grandchildren married and moved out, mama and papa had their oldest daughter and her husband living with and caring for them.

Retiring to Florida or leaving the apartment they shared with their eldest daughter and her husband was unheard of. Elderly parents were not left to live out their years alone. Elderly parents did not move to a retirement village, nor were they moved to a home for the elderly.

No one in the extended family moved across the country. Everyone stayed in the Bronx, most in the same apartment building. My uncle and his family chose to move to what at the time was considered so far away that it required planning and was referred to as a shlep to make the visit. I refer here to New Jersey.

Upon retirement, mama and papa were cared for and loved right where they lived, right up until they chose heaven rather than the Bronx.

Now: Empty-nesters feel they must plan what their retirement years will look like. Some — very few — enjoy the privilege of living with one of their children and their family. For the rest, sailing the oceans and the seven seas seems enticing. Florida also seems to be quite popular. Seemingly just far enough away, yet close enough for a long drive to visit their children and grandchildren.

Many, after living close enough but far enough, choose to move yet again, to whatever state or hamlet their children and grandchildren reside. Funny don’t you think? All that money could have gone to toys for the grandkids, or extravagant bar or bat mitzvah presents, maybe a nice used car when those same grandkids turn sixteen.

What I hear people say to those with multiple generations living under the same roof: how lucky are you, to have your parents and grandparents share the lives of their children and grandchildren.

What do I think, you ask? Well, without judgment for others, I think — no, I know — I am one of the most blessed women on earth. Our four girls, our four sons in love, and our ten grandkids live mere moments away. We are not moving anywhere to live out our retirement days. For goodness sakes, why would we?

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