Do We Ever Escape Our Family of Origin?

Last week I talked a bit about the first presentation Rabbi Address will give on November 13th. Today I want to share one of the themes of his second presentation, which focuses on Jacob and Joseph.

In this talk, Rabbi Address asks: Do we ever escape our family of origin? Is Dad still alive? Is Mom still alive? I know that whenever I look in the mirror, I see my late mother’s face staring back at me and she seems very alive! She still influences traditional practices I keep and some of the decisions I make, both large and small.

For instance, I never, never throw out a piece of aluminum foil until it has been used multiple times and I am absolutely convinced I cannot get one more turn out of it. Then there are the pretty spring and autumn wreaths that people place on their front doors and which I love. But the only time I put a wreath on our front door is at Christmas, because that’s what Mom did. When she was young a wreath on the door at any other time of year meant that someone in that home had died. Even though we no longer associate front door wreaths with death, I feel that my mother would disapprove if I were to hang one on my door except at Christmas. So I simply enjoy other people’s front door wreaths. These of course is just small things, but I know that, at least unconsciously, my mother continues to influence much bigger decisions I make in life, normally for good, but not always. For example,  there have been prejudices that my parents held that I have needed to reexamine and then shed altogether.

The biggest question I have concerns what my parents would think of the life I have created. I often wonder whether they would be pleased with the big choices I have made. I would like to think that they would be happy with the way I turned out and the family that Richard and I have raised; but there are some days I am not really sure. Have I been a disappointment to them? They would have been thrilled, for example, if I had finished my PhD in Church History at the University of St. Andrews and taught at a university. That did not happen. So am I still trying to earn their approval and make them proud of me? Even in the second half of life I am not sure that we ever fully escape this desire to please our parents – especially when we have been blessed with good and loving parents.

Do we ever escape our family of origin? Do we want to? What do YOU think?

Who Are You and Who and What Defines You in the Second Half of Life?

Have you registered for Our Long and Winding Road: Seeking Our Path in the Longevity Revolution with Rabbi Richard Address? If not, you will want to do so very soon. Because we are trying to limit our capacity as per health unit directives, we have intentionally restricted the number of participants who can attend. For this reason only a few spaces still remain.  

Rabbi Address will have several very stimulating presentations on November 13th that speak directly to the issues that are most on our hearts. In his first address for the day, he will focus on a question that most of us have probably wrestled with all our lives but which now takes on a new poignancy in the second half of life, namely, who am I and who and what defines me?

In other words, who tells us who we are? Our car? Our house or how well appointed our condo is? Our bank account? The size of our retirement portfolio? How successful our kids are? The photos of grandchildren we carry around in our wallets or how many bogeys we got in last week’s golf tournament? Where we spend our winters? Our hobbies? The books we read or the sports we play? Our volunteer activities and what we give back to our community?

Whether we realise it or not, the question of our identity is a profoundly spiritual one. It invites us to reflect upon where we have been and where and how God is calling us to serve in this chapter of our lives, which, as Rabbi Address notes, is a time of spiritual transformation akin to that  revealed in the story of Jacob’s Ladder.

Moreover, what and who are the angels who hold us as we age? With what do we wrestle in our older years? And where and how do we receive God’s blessing?

A Great Coming of Age Story for Boomers and Older Adults

Most coming of age novels are about young people on the cusp of adulthood, but recently my dear, life-long friend Liz put me on to a beautiful story which shifts the genre to a much later generation. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by up and coming English author Beth Morrey deserves all the high praise that has been heaped upon it. Beautifully written, the novel invites us into the life of former Cambridge graduate Millicent (Missy) Carmichael as she struggles with loneliness and contemplates her 79th birthday without her children or her brilliant, renowned historian but distant husband by her side. Ruminating on an event that happened after a party she attended while she was a student at St. Botolph’s (the same party where Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes) and a difficult choice she had to make because of it, through Missy we learn how to forgive ourselves and even find new hope and new friends in surprising places in our older years.

One of the key concepts Morrey deals with is the Greek idea of oikos, that sense of hearth and home that is much more than bricks and mortar and which speaks of family and love, security and comfort. We might describe it as a feeling of wholeness coupled with a sense of belonging.

Other important themes concern inter-generational relations and how we repair our relationships with our adult children, the changing nature of marriage as we age, the many faces of loneliness, how we learn to build a community for ourselves in our later years, and the role of young children and pets in helping us to stay lighthearted. Dog lovers will instantly warm to this book!

As the critics have written, there is nothing saccharine about The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. If you are ready for a story that invites you to go deeper and raises the kinds of courageous questions that we need to ask ourselves in this stage of our lives, this book may be just what you need. Poignant and heart-warming, it shows how we can find hope, meaning, and spiritual fulfillment in the second half of life if we are willing to move outside our comfort zone. Discussion questions suitable for book groups and an interview with the author are included at the back of the book.

I highly recommend this novel to all my Boomer and older adult friends AND to my millennial aged-children and friends as well.

Fall is Here and Rabbi Richard Address Will Soon Be Joining Us for an Amazing Event, So Register Now!

Our Long and Winding Road:

Seeking our Path in the Longevity Revolution


Richard F. Address, D.Min., is a leading authority on Boomer and Older Adult Ministry. He serves as Founder and Director of He served for 33 years on staff of Union for Reform Judaism as Regional Director and then as Founding Director of Department of Jewish Family Concerns.

He has also served congregations in California and, for the last several years, was senior rabbi at a congregation in southern New Jersey. He hosts the weekly radio show “Boomer Generation Radio” in Philadelphia and serves as co-chair of the Committee of Spirituality and Diversity for C-TAC: the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.

Rabbi Address is active with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and writes and speaks regularly on issues related to baby boomers, aging and how Judaism can impact our lives as we age. An incredibly engaging and thoughtful speaker, we are delighted to be able to welcome Rabbi Address back to London this November.


Saturday, November 13, 2021
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Registration opens at 8:30 a.m.)
$50 per person – snacks and lunch included
Hosted at Siloam United Church, London, ON


Or leave a message on the church’s voicemail: 519-455-9201