Editor's Note


Editor's Note

The Journey to Becoming a Real Grown-Up

By Rich Simon

September/October 2007


A disappointing lesson we all learn sooner or later is that growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing wiser, or even growing up. In our teens (or twenties or thirties, for that matter), we may have thought that, somehow, upon arriving at full adulthood (whatever that halcyon age of perfect self-realization might be), we’d magically be smarter about life, more mature and self-possessed. Then we find ourselves directly confronted with some of life’s harder realities and revert, at least inside, to the same confused, fearful, childish selves we thought we’d left far behind. At those times, our hopes and expectations of ourselves--that, when things got tough, we’d instinctively do the right thing, or even know what the “right thing”was--seem hopelessly naive.

Few events are as likely to provoke our benighted “inner child” as it drags us, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, than the lingering illness and growing frailty of aging parents. In “Refeathering the Nest,” Katy Butler describes with unsparing honesty being thrust into the new and unexpected role of parent to her parents, plus all-round family caretaker, when her father suffers two debilitating strokes. We get an intimate sense of the sheer logistical difficulties involved in organizing her parents’ finances, health care, and home needs from 3,000 miles away, and the even tougher job of struggling with unresolved childhood hurts while ricocheting between classic female altruism (“trying to be the…

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