Things change, but family is forever


I’ve spent a lot of time in my childhood home in the last few months. My folks still live independently, but they sometimes need a little help from their children, which has given me an opportunity to see the house and its neighborhood at a different stage in my life.

I’ve been hearing about the sandwich generation for years. I guess I now qualify. I’m happy to report that both my parents and my children live very independent lives, but everyone needs help occasionally, right? Even those of us in the middle.

A few years ago, when I hurt my knee, my adult children jumped right in to help. That’s what my siblings and I are now doing for my parents.

Here are a few observations after several trips to the home of my youth, where I sleep in my “old room.”

How did anyone ever come up with the split-level house? My mother has some mobility problems but, after some intensive physical therapy, is perfectly capable of getting around. However, the two steps here and four steps there in their 1960s split-level are a killer. It really makes aging in place quite challenging.

And speaking of aging in place, I am more and more convinced of the value of groups like the Village Common of Rhode Island ( My folks have no desire to move to an “adult” community – assisted, independent or otherwise. They want to stay in their single-family home. But none of their children live nearby and sometimes they need trusted help. The Village Common network offers social and other non-medical help like rides and referrals to handymen or those with computer skills to those who want to age in place.

Jewish Rhode Island ran a story on the Providence Village several years ago, and the group now has villages all over Rhode Island. The model just makes sense.

I no longer want all the stuff I thought I wanted. Mementos are lovely, and I definitely want some items from my youth. That apron my grandmother made? Yes! The complete set of dishes that cannot go in the dishwasher? Probably not. Labeled photos? Absolutely! Stuff that will just live in my basement? Nope.

Much has been written about how our Millennial children don’t want our stuff. Rather than accumulating clutter, they prefer to travel and have other “experiences.”   I’m starting to understand that thinking.

The old neighborhood has evolved. Mine was a typical Northern Virginia 1960s suburban subdivision of split-levels, raised ranches and ranch homes. Lots of military families bought or rented homes there. My childhood friends would be there for a couple years and then disappear. Many had dads serving in Vietnam.

Today, it remains a transient community, but many homes have been upgraded and renovated. Some have additions that look odd to me.

I wonder how many residents have been there as long as my parents, who purchased their home in 1966.

I look forward to my continued trips back “home.” I always find a few treasures in a drawer or a box of photos. But the best treasure of all is the priceless gift of time spent with my family.

With this issue of Jewish Rhode Island, we say farewell to our part-time copy editor Cynthia Benjamin who has been a valuable and invaluable contributor to our team for almost nine years. If you marvel at how our stories seem to make sense and read well without mistakes, you can credit Cynthia for catching gaps in the copy as well as those factual errors we all dread. Copy editing is not just about grammar and spelling. If you have written anything for Jewish Rhode Island, you have probably been subjected to Cynthia’s eagle eye. And your article was all the better for it. I wish Cynthia well as she looks to new adventures in retirement!

Fran Ostendorf,