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David Neff, Executive Editor

Stranger in a Strange Land

Greatly love the intellect

Talking Across Time Zones

I began to cry and had to stop reading when I reached page 160 of Mary Pipher's Another Country (Riverhead, 1999). It is not that I am a weeper by nature, nor that the author stoked me with sentimentality as Sheldon VanAuken did with his six-Kleenex finale to A Severe Mercy. Rather, I choked with emotion at this and other points in Pipher's book precisely be cause she so carefully reports the poignancy of our inevitable aging, the demands it makes upon us to accept decline and mortality—and the grace and generosity with which some arrive at that acceptance, while others battle the ineluctable with the blunt blade of bitterness.

Mary Pipher (author of Reviving Ophelia) is a psychologist and therefore an observer of human behavior. In Another Country she observes the interaction of the generations over the issues of aging. The question "What Shall We Do with Mother?" is not asked by Virginia Stem Owens alone (see this issue's cover story). The question is thrust upon everyone whose parents survive to old age. Because of better health and improved medical care, more are surviving to the age of decline. And because of radically changed social patterns, the once-familiar choice of inviting Mother to move in is less automatic and far less feasible. Thus issues and options must now be discussed: "Planning for death," Pipher writes matter-of-factly, "should be like planning for college, something that happens routinely after re search, thought, and discussion. Adult children and their parents should have a certain day, perhaps every year … , when they discuss the future." This doesn't happen, and thus we come to a crisis in communication.

One popular book about communication suggests the sexes are from different planets. Pipher locates the generations in different "time zones." Her book might have been titled Boomers Are from Pacific Standard Time and Their Parents Are from ...

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