My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. My wife bought it for me because my father died three weeks ago today and she thought it might be helpful. And some of it was. But a great deal was not too.
The book is made up mostly of stories about midlife “orphans” who have lost their parents. Most seem to be Jewish, perhaps because the author is. The book centers on losing your last parent, although that wasn’t immediately clear and because I just lost my first parent, it didn’t resonate as much as it might at a later date. The stories are about relationships people had with their parents, their siblings, and their children. Things like inheritances are also brought up.
There were a few interesting passages. One states,
“Of all the relationships we experience, our relationship with our parents is the first significant one. Our earliest and most treasured memories begin with our mother and father. As the decades roll by, we create intimate connections with others and accumulate volumes of additional recollections but all the while we are building on that first relationship. Our parents’ values and their experiences are tightly bound into our life’s tapestry, tangled with threads that we weave for ourselves as our individual character evolves.”
I’m an only child. The book does occasionally address only children. It states that generally, for instance, “only children do not have to worry about sharing an inheritance. But that doesn’t mean an inheritance has less emotional impact for them. For many only children, the death of the last parent magnifies the degree of aloneness.”
Speaking of inheritances, “some children become angry when they realize that their parents did not have to live as frugally as they did.” I think I can relate to this sentiment. After seeing Dad’s financial affairs, I now realize he and Mom could have taken some of the trips they dreamed of taking, but never did. Why did they hold back? It seems so unfair. They should have spoiled themselves. Now Mom doesn’t have Dad to share such experiences with, and that’s just cruel.
My primary complaint with the book is probably not shared by many people. The book focuses on sibling and child/parent relationships. I have no siblings and no children. Aside from my lovely wife, my mom and I are now alone in this world. When Mom goes, I’ll have no one to fall back on. This is a terrifying prospect for me. The book never touches on this. I wish it would have. Also, the book doesn’t offer many concrete suggestions for coping, although it does advocate saving sympathy cards one receives upon a parent’s death. That’s nice, but I could have used more. Instead, the book is made up largely of simple stories of people who lost their parents as middle aged children, and it doesn’t go into much more depth than that. Oh well. It was a decent book, and I’m glad to know I’m (kind of) not the only one, but the book could have done and been more, and I’m sad that it wasn’t. Three stars.