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Essay: When your kids become your parents

Carol Cott Gross of East Northport with her

Carol Cott Gross of East Northport with her son David M. Gross on Jan. 3. Credit: Herb Gross

At 76, I’m endorsing the adage “Old age is always 10 years older than you are.”

Readers my age might understand, but my adult children don’t, so let me explain.

It was drizzling one evening in August when my husband, Herb, and I caught a local movie in Elwood.

Afterward, when I turned on my cellphone at 9 p.m., I had texts, voice messages and emails from my daughter, Terri, in Commack, and my son David in Los Angeles, asking where I was and why I was out in wet weather.

“Next time, tell us where you’re going,” Terri texted.

“Call ASAP!” she also demanded in a voicemail.

I told Herb, “They’ll be getting me an app to track me.”

Yes, indeed, I’m grateful for my kids’ loving concern, but I haven’t lost my marbles — yet. However, at this age, I seem to be on a shorter leash than when I was 17, when my curfew was 11 p.m.

My step down in family stature started recently when my autoimmune disease flared up. For weeks, my only forays out of bed were to consult big doctors at teaching hospitals. Again, I appreciated my children’s concern and loving assistance, and still do, but I expected that when I recuperated, I’d be treated again like a competent adult.

So, yes, I can’t easily access the name of the actress who starred in my favorite summer movie, “The Book Club,” nor the name of the Smithtown diner where I ate recently. My friend Richard, a comedy writer, dubbed this aging ailment “proper noun disease.”

Luckily, it hasn’t affected my driving. Speaking of which, when I got the medical OK to resume driving, my grandson Kevin, then 16, who meant well, advised, “Ga, please don’t drive at night, or drive on the Northern State or LIE.”

My cranky response was, “Your Ga has been driving for half a century, and you only have a permit.”

My bad! I had snapped out of frustration, I apologized to him.

In addition, I’m monitored by the pantry and prescription police. Once when David and Terri were visiting, they ditched food in my refrigerator even if it was dated two weeks before “best if used by.”

I asked them, “Who junks mustard and ketchup unless it’s moldy?”

Nobody chuckled. Instead, they moved to my medicine cabinet, checking expiration dates and quizzing me about why I’m taking what.

But now that I think about it, I started dispensing well-meaning advice to my late, great mother when she was being treated for breast cancer in her 70s.

I must apologize for killing Mom’s buzz at Terri’s wedding 19 years ago. My mother, she should rest in peace, danced on Broadway as a teen and was doing a mambo with my cousin Jules. She wore a drop-dead hot pink dress with matching spike heels.

I rushed out on the floor to save her from maybe breaking a hip.

Mom snapped, “Carol, I’m not an old biddy!”

And she warned, “One day, if you’re lucky to live that long, your kids become your parents. Get ready, Carol! It’s flattering, and infuriating.”

Back then, I silently assured myself, “Never happen to me.”

So Mom, you were right! And so was Bette Davis, who famously warned, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Reader Carol Cott Gross lives in East Northport.