Transitions With Jean Blog

Be delicate, respectful when asking parents for their

June 6, 2021

“Auntie, when you’re gone, can I have your sofa?” She asked in a kindly way. Then she kept going, perhaps trying to make it sound better, “I don’t mean now, I mean when you are dead.”

Her aunt visibly flinched but smiled and said sure.

My brain was screaming, “Shush!”

It was a replay of something I have heard several times before.

Once, a son was laughing as he said, “Dad, I get your license plate when you die.” The dad went along with it, but later, he told me it was mean.
Listen up, kids; we all know that we will die, someday. Your parents are well aware of it. After all, they’ve already lost their parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and possibly their spouse. Their pain runs deep. They do not need to be blatantly reminded that they are coming to the end of their time on earth.

It hurts.

When it comes out of the blue, and you throw comments like this into a conversation, it feels like a slap in the face. I’ll bet that about now, you are saying, “Mom would want me to tell her if there is something I want from her house.” Certainly. But can you be more delicate? When you aren’t in the middle of something else, gently ask if you can have a conversation sometime about some items in their house and ask if it is alright for you to ask for items you like. Let them absorb it. Let them set the pace.

It is just stuff. If you can’t find a sensitive way to bring it up, then just shush.

On another subject: this past year has been tough on all of us, but more so on our elders. They just spent a year being afraid for their lives and with good reason. During the lockdown and isolation at their houses or communities, many folks have been living in a bubble. Their world got much smaller. They may have adapted to their new environment and become more comfortable with the quieter surroundings. If so, the recent opening up of our communities may be a harsh change for some. It might feel loud and busy. They might not quite be ready for it. That is OK.

Folks, it is fine to take this in baby steps. Getting out still feels a little awkward. It is understandable. Take it easy. Take it slow.

The pandemic has affected everyone differently.

Respect where each person is coming from. Don’t judge them for being careful. Help them practice being around others by starting with smaller settings. Maybe they aren’t ready for a big party at a hall. Ask if they would like to go out for lunch.

Before you rush up to them and give them a big hug, ask permission. They may be uneasy. Give them their space.

On the other hand, if you have both been vaccinated and they say yes, hug away! It can really warm a heart.

Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long’s Senior Transitions in Appleton, writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. She can be reached at 920-734-3260 or


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