When do we lose our parents?

Parental loss varies by race and socio-economic status.

when do we lose our parentsAs a Census geek and as someone has lost both parents, I was intrigued by a new report about “When do we lose our parents?” It’s called “Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors.” Here’s the underlying study, Exploring the Link between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality.

“People lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers, and the timing of parental loss is linked to factors such as race, educational attainment and poverty status.

“For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive.” As you may know, my father died in 2000, my mother in 2011, so my experience is more common.

“For example, among those ages 45 to 49, 26% have lost their mother, while 45% have lost their father. Along these same lines, 7 in 10 of those ages 60 to 64 have a deceased mother, while about 87% have lost their father.” I was 47 when my dad died, 58 when mom passed.

“Among adults ages 25 to 34, about 15% of the white population and Asian population have lost one or both parents. By contrast, about 17% of the Hispanic population and 24% of the black population have experienced the death of a parent.” Fortunately, I am not in this group, but I know many folks who are.

“Among those ages 35 to 44, 43% of those living below the Federal Poverty Level have lost one or both parents, compared to 28% for those living in households with an income-to-poverty ratio of at least 400% of the FPL.

“Parental loss, which varies by race and socio-economic status, is often accompanied by psychological and material consequences. These statistics demonstrate the way these new SIPP data can help assess how socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with parental mortality in the United States.”

I suppose this is a bummer of a Mother’s Day post. But my mom always tried to do the right thing by others. My father spent his life addressing inequities. Somehow I don’t think they’d mind.

Nora Ephron, Andy Griffith, and the sense of loss

Almost inevitably, I would get to know more about the deceased than I could have possibly imagined. Parts of their interesting lives to which I was not privy until it was too late.

I was looking at the situation all wrong. When Nora Ephron died last week, I was thinking about her top movie moments rather than her life. I was evaluating her films: liked Sleepless in Seattle, but You’ve Got Mail, not so much. Enjoyed Heartburn.  Julie and Julia: Julia-yes, Julie-eh. Silkwood I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t even watch Bewitched.

Then I read John Blumenthal’s piece on how Nora Ephron took pity on him “as a lowly peon at Esquire magazine. Then she found me a job.” Or Dick Cavett’s Vamping With Nora, when a guest failed to appear on his talk show, and they had to fill 20 minutes. Plus some other pieces I didn’t cite. Or listening to Diane Sawyer talking about her friend on ABC News; I had no idea before she read the story that they even knew each other, but I could just tell, by her delivery.

And it reminded me of going to funerals of people I knew, or, more likely, people I didn’t know but attended the service because I knew a family member. Almost inevitably, I would get to know more about them than I could have possibly imagined. Parts of their interesting lives to which I was not privy until it was too late. And I feel sad, sad in a way I could not have possibly imagined. These people are losing this AMAZING person. I’d SO feel their pain, their sense of loss.

Oddly, with all the things I read about Nora Ephron, I was feeling the same way. I wish I HAD attended dinner parties with her, as someone had suggested because I’m now convinced she would have been wise and witty and entertaining. And so, I’m surprisingly sad that, at the age of 71, Nora Ephron has died of leukemia.


Whereas, my feeling about Andy Griffith, who died on July 3, was more immediate. My father and Andy were born in the same year, 1926. More than once, I wish my dad were more patient with me, liked Sheriff Andy Taylor was with his son Opie (Ron Howard). Not that he couldn’t be stern – the episode I remember the best is the one in which Opie kills a mother bird with his slingshot and is forced to become her babies’ surrogate mother. And Sheriff Andy believed in due process of the law.

For reasons I cannot clearly explain, I was a big fan of Matlock, with Griffith as a cornpone, but savvy lawyer in a light blue seersucker suit. I enjoyed his performance in the movie Waitress. But perhaps his greatest role was in the movie A Face in the Crowd, as Gordon noted.

Though beloved in his home state of North Carolina, I recall that Griffith took some heat for his support for an Obamacare proposal.

Read Mark Evanier’s remembrance, and check out these interviews with Andy Griffith.

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