Life With Pop

Life With Pop: Lessons on Caring For an Aging Parent

“Dad, may I ask, do you ever think about dying?”
About three seconds pass before he answers flatly, “No.”
Another few seconds pass, then, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, he announces, “Isn’t this a great bagel?”

The truth is, it is a great bagel. And what makes it even greater is that it’s smeared with real vegetable cream cheese – not the low fat, doctor-prescribed kind, but the big, buttery, loaded-with-cholesterol kind. And the coffee is smacking hot and delicious. And we’re sitting outdoors, not in a home for the elderly, and Dad can still pick up that monster and stuff it into his face with his own two hands. So, why, why, talk about dying now? I take the cue, sit back, and let the sun warm the space between us.”

From bestselling author and clinical psychologist Janis Abrahms Spring comes a refreshingly honest and tender portrait of a devoted daughter shepherding her father through his final years of life.

After her mother died, Janis inherited her father (Pop) and set off on an all-consuming, five-year mission to make his days as rich and comfortable as possible. This is their story, overflowing with humor, insight, and love.

In beautifully-crafted vignettes, Janis brings their deepening relationship to life – both the joy and the imposition, the happiness and the heartache. Early on, she watches with relief as her father adjusts to an assisted living facility, buoyed by a resilient spirit and a network of new friends. She and her father share the intimacy of afternoons in the park, finding wonder in the colors of a sandwich or a rose, and solace in a smile or a reassuring touch. But as Pop’s health declines, Janis finds herself tested by daunting healthcare and financial decisions, and the guilt of trying to balance her father’s growing needs against her own.

From her unique perspective as a therapist – weaving together her personal story with the confessions of her patients – Janis explores the emotional and practical complexities of parenting a parent. In sparkling prose, she offers a language for this ordinary, extraordinary experience, helping other caregivers feel less crazy and alone. Inspiring, deeply moving, and frank, Life with Pop is an ultimately comforting meditation on a universal experience, as well as a memoir with profound lessons on how to grow old gracefully.

 

Praise for Life with Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent

“Dr. Spring’s beautiful writing transports us. You will feel better knowing it’s not just you who is ashamed and awed by the challenges of caring for elderly parents. I loved this book and recommend it to everyone who is beginning or ending the journey. It’s a lonesome valley, made less lonesome by this remarkable book.”
– Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D., founder of Internal Family Systems therapy

“This is more than just a book about caring for an aging parent. It is about human endurance, discovering who we really are, questioning our core values, seeing our future through a magnifying glass, and coming face to face with excruciating life and death choices. In absorbing detail, the author takes us on this soul-changing journey, one that is bound to move and inspire her readers.”
– Peggy Papp, M.S.W., Senior Supervisor, Ackerman Family Institute

“Tender, powerful, bluntly honest, Life with Pop explores the extraordinary personal challenges and moments of grace that come with caring for an aging parent. I was a long- distance son, loving but not present. Janis’ book showed me with sharp clarity some of the joy I missed and some of the burden I was spared. Rather than inducing guilt and regret, though, it filled me with compassion for all families taking this last walk together. It was a gift to me. Read it. It will be a gift to you.”
– David Treadway, Ph.D., co-author of Home Before Dark: A Family’s First Year with Cancer

“This book is wonderful – so readable, so personal, so genuine. I can’t wait to recommend it to my family, friends, and patients of all ages. It speaks remarkable truths about life that will enrich all who read it.”
– Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., Director, Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research

“A poignant, intimate, and beautifully written memoir about the challenges of caring for a family member. Filled with many life lessons, this book isn’t one you’ll forget or easily put down.”
– Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of Dance of Anger

“A graceful and balanced book filled with insights and discoveries, not only on what it means to care for an aging parent, but on what it means to be human and to love.”

– Mary Catherine Bateson, Ph.D., author of Composing a Life and Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery

 “This book is rich with comfort, wisdom, and humor. I laughed and cried my way to the end. Anyone who has an aging parent or partner, or who expects to get old, will love it and learn from it.”
– Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind

 “With exquisite insight, uncompromising self-reflection, and gentle humor, Dr. Spring narrates the last years of her elder father, whose age and Parkinson’s summon mounting emotional and practical challenges. The book vibrates with a quietly provocative energy and shines of a rare and uncompromising frankness. The depth, clarity and honesty of this book are uniquely eloquent.”

–Alessandro Di Rocco, M.D., Professor of Neurology & Chief, Division of Movement Disorders, NYU School of Medicine

Life with Pop is a remarkable book – wise, beautifully honest, humane, and resonantly uplifting.”
– Sybil Steinberg, former senior editor, Publisher’s Weekly

“Stunning. Beautifully experienced and insightfully written.”
– Kay Grismer, The Country Bookshop

“Often when you read a book, the suspense of seeing how it will end keeps you gong. When I began Life with Pop, a memoir of the five years during which the author served as the primary caregiver for her beloved and increasingly debilitated father, I knew how it would end. The deeply emotional suspense comes in discovering how the universal experience of aging is revealed through Janis Spring’s unique relationship with her father. This award winning author and acclaimed psychologist lets us in on the pathos of aging, sprinkled with humor, deep meaning, the realities of caregiver limitations and exhaustion in the constant tension that exists when choosing between self and other. Life with Pop bravely, honestly, and sensitively witnesses the very humanity of the ancient question of what children owe parents, as they complete their cycle of love, obligation, guilt feelings and balance. Dr. Spring’s last gift to her Pop is this beautifully written, moving memoir. We are all blessed to have it as well.”
– B. Hibbs, LMFT, Ph.D., author of Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage

 “With refreshing and often stunning vulnerability, Dr. Spring explores her experience of caring for her father during his final years. She lets the reader see her at her most and least noble, and in doing so manages to beautifully communicate lessons she learned. I found myself wondering about her and her father throughout the day, and looked forward to that evening where I could pick up where I left off…it is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.”
– Sean Davis, Ph.D., review for Journal of Marital and Family Therapy