the roadIt’s coming up on ten years since my father died at age 93. The years have mellowed my memories somewhat but still and overall he and I never shared the best of relationships. He always had these crazy expectations for me to follow in his footsteps and accomplish even greater and more significant things but he also always had low expectations at the same time. It put me in the most peculiar “no win” situation my whole life. I agonized over it for years and I’m convinced that he never gave the issue a serious thought.

Just before he passed away I visited him around Christmas. He was in good spirits and apparent health and we parted on very benevolent terms and he expressed a gratitude that I’d rarely seen before. A few weeks later he became ill and quickly passed away and, while I was there at his death, we never spoke again.

I’ve always been surprised at that moment of insight on his part and how profoundly that small communication touched me and my wife and one of my sons, who were also there. That insight has prompted me to consider fully the value of gratitude and expressing that gratitude towards one’s family. Too many people tell me that their relationships with their parents were awful and how it was never resolved or healed. And in too many of those situations the resistance to change lies with the parent not the child.

So how does an elderly parent become aware enough to look inside and figure out how to mend fences with their adult offspring?  I found two resources on the web that offer insight if not answers.

The first is Next Avenue which is a product of PBS and offers daily compilations’ of lifestyle stories for adults. One article was specific to today’s issue: How to Heal a Rift With Your Adult Child by Erica Manfred (Link is below).

Another source of advice from seniors (not just about them) is the Legacy Project developed by Karl Pillemer at Cornell University. His site says, “The Legacy Project has systematically collected practical advice from over 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.”

Being proactive is one key. I can see how in myself (to some extent, perhaps in theory) I am aware of the need to do this now and I have not built vast relationship barriers with my two middle-aged sons, so I expect I’ll maintain good relationships with them for the duration. My Dad never quite got it until that moment at like 11:57 p.m. on his life clock.

However, I feel he did get it at the end and salvation is only needed once.


Manfred, E. How to Heal a Rift With Your Adult Child, January 16, 2013,

Legacy Project, advice from elders:

Image: This photo appears in several places on the web but I could not find its source.

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: