Caring for my Parents in their Senior Years Made Me a Better Person

A Caregiver’s Perspective

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My sister Pam and I surprised my Mom with an 85th Birthday celebration in November 2006.

Caring for my parents in their elderly years was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I became a better son, a better man, a better human being. At least, I hope I have.

In 1989, I returned to my hometown of Rochester, New York to care for my mother and father, then in their mid-sixties and seventies, respectively. My acting career in Los Angeles had stalled and I began a career in writing, specifically about the classic TV show, Bewitched, for which I had a particular affection. I thought, Well, I can write anywhere. Why not go back to Rochester and write from there? This way, I can also take care of Mom and Dad.

Dad and I grew closer. He would say things like, “Herbie J — I don’t know what I’d do without you.” He was a tough guy, and he always loved me. But I would never have heard such intimate words from him had we not shared caring moments during his challenged elderly years.

The years passed until 1995 when my father, Herbert “Pompeii” Pilato (he was Herbie P. and I was Herbie J — with no “period”) died of lung cancer at 83.

Dad and Mom, Christmas 1985

Mom had been dependent on my father. My parents did not “come from money.” They never learned to become financially secure. After my father died, it somehow seemed cruel to leave my mother to fend for herself, even with my sister living close by to help.

My sister, who had a career and a family of her own, and I cared for our parents because we loved them. We weren’t going to inherit an estate. There was none, in any sense of the word. There was no house. There was no massive bank account. There was nothing. Because I was single and worked from home, there were no qualms about me becoming the primary caregiver.

The years continued into 2008, when my mother, Frances Mary Turri Pilato, passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s at 86.

During that time in Rochester, I commuted periodically to Los Angeles for work assignments. I have never regretted returning home to care for my parents.

My parents gave my sister and me everything they were capable of and in turn, we gave them everything we could. We mostly gave our time, which is the most anyone can give anybody; especially ill or challenged seniors.

I learned about patience and compassion for elders while caring for my parents. Each had ten brothers and sisters. I was blessed with an extended family of countless aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. For years, there was a party every night at our home on Erie Street in Rochester, and for a time, in our townhome in Greece, New York, a nearby suburb where we relocated in 1978.

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My parents catered to me and my sister all our lives. Why would we then not later return the beautiful favor?

By 1995, after Dad died, most of my cousins had moved out of state and onto their own lives. A few of my aunts and uncles had also died. By 2008, the year Mom died, the remaining aunts and uncles had also left this world. Consequently, in my parents’ later years, specifically Mom’s, I created a new family for them to embrace.

I made sure Mom attended and participated in activities at the local senior community center. I helped her get to know each new neighbor at her new senior apartment complex in Irondequoit (a suburb of Rochester). I made sure she was loved, and I felt some of that love, too — when I became the volunteer activities director at her senior apartment complex.

In 2010, I established the Classic TV Preservation Society, or CTVPS, a formal 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the positive influence of classic television shows. The primary function is to bring to senior communities, Classic TV & Self-Esteem Seminars, in addition to schools, colleges, and business and community centers.

The lessons of love and compassion that I learned from my parents as a child, and in turn applied to caring for them as an adult, remain with me. Even with both now gone, every good thing that I did for my parents continues to lead to every good thing in my life and career.

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I know my parents are flourishing in Heaven

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Herbie J Pilato writes about pop-culture, stays positive, and hosts THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, a TV talk show on Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime UK.

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