93-year old fashion consultant: my father-in-law

There’s only one grandparent left in our family – my 93-year old father-in-law. A former tailor, with all his wits still about him and a mischievous sense of humor, he’s the go-to guy when our daughters (24 and 27) have fashion questions.

Their mother (that’d be me) is totally utterly useless in these matters. In fact I am regularly directed or chastised by these children. (But that’s another story)

Generations of fashion

I never cease to get a kick out of watching them turn this way and that as Grandpa, examines seams and linings

I didn’t have grandparents growing up, so it’s a new and remarkable and heart-warming experience to see how these girls dote on and respect their Grandpa.

What are memories made of?

A decade ago, their only other grandparent (my mother-in-law) died. She refused to let the kids see her in her last days in the hospital. She was weak, but adamant about this.

Our daughters mourn that to this day. They couldn’t understand – and even felt it selfish of her – why their Grandmother denied her grandaughters a chance to see her again.

Most of us never see death

Around that time, their beloved aunt was dying of cervical cancer. She died at home and we all saw her change from vibrant and vivacious to a wasted and jaundiced shell.

Those two experiences put into perspective that my mother-in-law wouldn’t want to be seen (and remembered) as she looked in that hospital bed.

Now, we’re seeing our fashionista slowing down. He’s a wonder at 93, but still – he’s increasingly bent over, tires easily and often has dangerously high blood pressure.

With my interest and focus on end of life communication and education, I broached, with my husband, the subject of ensuring his wishes were put in writing. “Oh Gawd.’ He groaned. “I don’t know about this. Don’t be surprised if he bolts.”

I did, and he didn’t He was so very happy to get this straightened away and understood by all – including his granddaughters (who also said ”Oh Gawd, Mom, no”).

Whose death is it, anyway?

We dinner with him weekly and I can see the girls – our daughters, his granddaughters – are greatly affected, witnessing him winding down. He doesn’t want the girls to see him ‘in any kind of state’ and didn’t buckle when they protested.

As I continue to explore how life’s end is fodder for interesting debates and internal explorations, I ponder and puzzle: whose death is it anyway and whose wishes should be honored?

In 2008, Kathy Kastner launched Ability4Life.com for adult children caring for aging parents. Her journey, and the resources curated along the way, is called BestEndings.com (for those who want to talk about the end of life, and those who don’t).

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

Get Dr. Greene's Wellness Recommendations

Sign up now for a delightful weekly email with insights for the whole family. Plus Dr. Greene's FREE Top 5 Wellness Tips For 2017.

  1. healthythinker

    I am now ferklempt and teary and loving what you wrote, Kathy. It resonates so with me and my dad, who is gone – but chose to die on his own terms. Whose death indeed? What an existential question, to be found on the portal of a pediatrician: perfect, Circle of Life stuff. xo

    • kathy kastner

      Many thanks for your comment, Jane. Always interesting to learn the ripples of impact from a death ‘on his/her own terms’ (translation: does that make it any easier for those left behind?) Whenever I tell people what I do, it prompts a story. Today’s: “My father struggled to stay alive while Parkinson’s was crushing him. I’d get tied up in knots watching him try to get a piece of chocolate into his mouth and say to my mother, ‘what kind of life is this?’ and she’d say ‘look: he’s enjoying himself.’ xo


Got an idea, tip or a comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *