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Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

By Tzvi Fishman
3/2/2011, 12:00 AM

I spent most of the day today with my Mom at her nursing home. The Filipino woman who takes care of her went on a month vacation to Manila, so I’m pitching in with the staff to make sure that Mom gets the best care possible. I’m not sure that she recognizes me anymore, but she probably senses that it’s me on some soul level, and maybe she still recognizes my voice.   

A little over a decade ago, I received a phone call from my Aunt Peachy in Florida, saying that something was the matter with my Mother and that I should come to Florida as quickly as I could. When I arrived there a few days later, it turned out that Mom was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and my Dad, who had an assortment of medical problems of his own, couldn’t handle her by himself. So after conferring with their doctors, I bought four jumbo suitcases, filled them with their clothing, and took my parents back with me to Israel, telling my Mother that they were coming to my son’s bar mitzvah.  My uncle in Boca put their house up for sale, and before they knew what was happening, they were living with us in Shilo, new pioneer settlers in the wild “West Bank.”

Because of their medical needs, including frequent follow-up visits with an internist, cardiologist, neurologist, urologist, endocrinologist, psychiatrist, orthopedist, dermatologist, dentist, and optometrist, Shilo proved to be too far away from the city. So we moved to Jerusalem where I was fortunate to locate a building that had two apartments available, one for my family and one for my parents.

I wrote a novel about the experience that I hope to post soon on ebooks or Kindle, but to make a long story short, thanks to my angelic wife who put up with a husband who spent more time in the downstairs apartment than with her, I did my best to make their transition to Israel as fun, loving, and interesting as possible. In addition to shlepping them to doctors, I took them out for a drive every day, shopping, eating out, spending time with their grandchildren, running to keep up with my Mother whenever she would bolt from the house during one of her Alzheimer outbursts, until I set Mom up with a Filipino helper, found a tremendous young companion for my Dad who learned Torah with him and took them out during the day to keep them active, I enrolled them in the Melabev senior citizens club for English-speakers, where they met new friends and learned all about Israel, the Jewish holidays, current events, and other stimulating activities several times a week.

Many of the blogs I wrote, and the articles I translated for jewishsexuality.com were written in the hospitals where my Dad spent almost two years battling a cancer. He passed away at the age of 89 and was buried on the Mount of Olives, one of the holiest places in the world, a far cry from being laid to rest in a cemetery alongside some Boca Raton golf course.

After he passed away, we moved Mom into a nursing home with her Filipino worker, where she could get round-the-clock care. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be cutting down on blog writing to spend more time with my Mother.

The moral of the story is that it is possible to move to Israel and take your parents with you. If they don’t want to come now, chances are they’ll change their minds later when they need more help and want to be near their grandchildren. Life for senior citizens in Israel offers great stimulation, unmatched blessing, and top medical and nursing care. So if you really want to do the best thing you can for your parents, move to Israel and bring them with you, either now or later. There’s no greater blessing in the world.