There are so many excellent documentaries about caregiving that have been released over the last few years and I’d like to highlight a recent entry, “Duty Free.” It’s about a woman named Rebecca who gets fired from her job at age 75 and is facing a dire housing and economic situation while caring for a son with mental health issues. Her other son, a young filmmaker, uses the challenging moment as an opportunity to help his mother complete a bucket list of adventures and experiences she never got to enjoy as a single immigrant mother raising two children. What transpires are moments of joy and heartbreak as Rebecca forges a new path for herself while addressing her past.
I found this documentary to be very moving while spotlighting an issue that more and more elders find themselves facing. Retirement is becoming less of a certainty as rising economic insecurity means more and more older people will continue to work their entire lives. Rebecca immigrated to this country when she was young and worked hard all of her life in the hotel industry, working her way up to a supervisor position in the housekeeping department before being fired at age 75. Her housing arrangement was also nullified as the result of her job termination, so Rebecca was facing dual hardships. We know from studies that starting around age 50, women in particular find it much harder to secure employment or move forward in their careers. At Rebecca’s age, though she is still vibrant and physically active, the job search is even more grim.
The film also is about caregiving, as Rebecca financially supports her son who has schizophrenia and is unable to work. So many older people find themselves supporting their adult children for a variety of reasons, and that adds to their own economic insecurity. Her other son, Sian-Pierre, is limited in financial resources but does offer something priceless, which is encouraging his mother to do all of the things she never had time to do while raising children and documenting his mother’s story for the world to see.
I encourage you to watch this film and share with others. If you have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Today, I went back to Ruidoso, NM, the town my parents retired to, so I could take care of some business matters. Dad was last alive (barely) in Ruidoso in November 2011. He was very sick by then and unaware of his surroundings.
Mom has not been in Ruidoso since her birthday, July 6th. We do not know yet when (or if) she will be able to come home. It was so odd going through the town without one of my parents being there. I walked the same paths they walked hundreds of times, and talked to people who remembered them well and were eager to send best wishes and prayers my mother’s way.
Ruidoso is a small, friendly community and my parents were well-liked though they kept to themselves mostly. I didn’t like being the bearer of bad news today, but the genuine concern was rewarding, and I was able to pass along that love to my mom tonight when I visited her at the nursing home.
Positive thoughts may not be the ultimate cure, but they can’t hurt.
Dad threatened many times when I was a kid to move the family to Costa Rica. His love for the Central American country was based upon secondhand knowledge and photos and stories from books and magazines. One of his co-workers had traveled to Costa Rica and enthralled Dad with tales of a cheap cost of living and the locals’ love of Americans (and their American dollars I’m sure, this was when the dollar was still pretty strong.) He told Dad that most of the locals spoke English and you could get a huge house on the beach for cheaper than renting in California.
Most are all of this may have been true. But Mom and I were not too worried about having to pack up and leave the country. My dad’s dreams of Costa Rica were more a way for him to battle his frustration at the high cost of living and unemployment woes facing him in California in the mid-1980’s. I also think part of him cherished a romantic ideal of living the life of some bohemian writer or artist in a tropical paradise. Maybe his Costa Rica dreams helped him survive all of those years living in boring suburbia!
Many kids would have thought a move to a foreign land would be exciting, but I was not the type of kid with an adventurous spirit. I always backed my mom up when she would shoot down Dad’s occasional “let’s move to Costa Rica” campaigns.
How different our lives would have been if we had made a move like that!
I hope he was able to escape to the sunny beaches of Costa Rica at least in his mind as his mental and physical health declined.