‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’: Ignore at Your Peril
by Stephanie Janiczek
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
I know a lot of theology teachers might argue with me over what the greatest commandment is in the list of ten big ones. To me it always seemed that the biggest one was “Honor Thy Father and Mother”. The other rules God set for us stemmed from that one simple five word bit of divine instruction. Not difficult to understand and not hard to follow.
These days we have certain types of people who not only ignore that commandment but they go out of their way to flaunt that commandment. Too many of our seniors are forgotten, thrown into nursing homes by their selfish boomer children who think they know more than their parents; and because of the privilege’s their parents hard work afforded them are better than their parents.
Today I was introduced to a woman named Janice Cotrill who is evicting her 91 year old father from the home he has lived in with her mother for 54 years. John Potter is a World War II veteran and hero. He has lived in the village of Zaleski ,Ohio his entire life, except for the years he spent in the military in World War II, fighting against the Japanese at Attu in the Aleutian Islands. I am speechless with rage. Here is a link to the story:; and another link.
I think part of my anger towards Ms. Cotrill and her husband is the fact my own father and mother saw their last years sad and lonely and dependent. In fact, it nearly went the same way as Mr. Potter’s life has gone. When it is your own parents and there is nothing you personally can do to help it is the most awful thing to deal with personally. At the time the bad happened to my parents, I was in college and had no money, no personal power to help them. It is funny but it is always that way. The person who cares most about their parents is the one who has the least amount of personal power or money to help them when they need help.
In looking back, I wish I had made different decisions but I know that regrets are for sad sacks. The past should never hold us back but in the case of one’s parents, when they did everything for you, to see older siblings treating them so badly, it is hard not to look back with some regret. The words “I wish I had” run rampant through one’s mind like an old vinyl record skipping. And yet there are those people you grew up with who have no concerns about what they do to their parents. One is introduced to resentments that were never apparent before, angers and envy that were never out in the open.
It is quite disturbing to think there are people out there who are this amoral. Yes, evicting one’s parents from their home of 54 years is amoral. Not allowing a father to see his autistic son is amoral. Instead of spending quality time with a father who is a hero, whom one can learn so much from, this woman and her husband are throwing him out onto the street.
The stories of a father of 91, who has seen so much, done so much could become family lore. It’s the stuff legends are made of. These are the stories children coming after can hear and live up to. Think about the loss of that alone. It is horrifying in a way to think so much can be tossed casually aside like this.
When one throws their parents away like so much trash one throws oneself away with them. So much of a human being’s identity and self are given to them by their parents, through DNA, through being raised and the life’s lessons parents teach their children. You can see in the empty, unhappy lives these amoral creatures live. They live for the moment, materialistic not only in their greed for things and power but a kind of spiritual materialism that causes them to drift even further from themselves. They are quite literally dead inside.
They search continually for a self they would never recognize because they can’t see themselves anymore. Or they know too well who stares back at them from the mirror in the morning and they cannot stand that person. One could feel some pity for these people who abandoned the values and morals they were raised to believe in; but when one reaches a certain age one realizes that there are some people who suck the very soul from everyone around them, and trying to help them is the ultimate expression of futility. One could do better by making life easier for the elderly, reaching out to those that could share with them the wisdom they accumulated over the decades and maybe providing to an elderly veteran and his wife a family they no longer really have.
I want to tell this woman, “That is your Dad. He’s a decorated veteran. Instead of behaving so viciously why not embrace the limited time with your Dad and hear his stories, do your daughter’s duty and honor him? This is the house you grew up in. Think of the memories? Think of times your parents were there for you? Doesn’t any of that mean anything?”
It is funny but in looking back at some of the things I have seen in my own past I realize that those questions would be meaningless to certain people because the idea of honoring ones parents means nothing to them.
We know that people ultimately pay the price for their hubris. It might be in overwhelming guilt for their cruelty with which they have treated their parents. It might be in the hereafter. But people who have committed heinous sins against people they should love and respect do find justice. That is the cold unvarnished truth.
What we are witnessing in this sad story is a Greek Tragedy played out in 2013 USA. It has all the hubris, greed, and like a Greek Tragedy, it will end badly. Not just for Mr. Potter. It will end worse for his daughter and she’s too wrapped up in herself and what she wants to realize that. I feel no pity for her and her husband. What comes ’round goes ’round.
I do feel a terrible sadness that her father, a WWII hero who is sick, is being treated like a criminal by his daughter. The only criminal I can identify here is Ms. Cotrill. “Honor Thy Father and Mother” isn’t a suggestion, as the saying goes, and one would do one a big favor by abiding by that five word commandment.
Image: John Potter; courtesy of Jaclyn Fraley; “World War II Vet John Potter, 91, Faces Eviction by Daughter”; realestate.aol.com
Stephanie Janiczek is a former Capitol Hill Staff Assistant, Schedule C Appointee and Leadership Institute alum. Military Wife, Hunter, Horse enthusiast, dog owner, writer and feminist kryptonite.