The financial abuse, neglect and exploitation of seniors reported in Maine is an ancient problem (“New program seeks to protect seniors from financial exploitation,” Dec. 26).

There is an ancient Irish folktale regarding elder neglect called “The Divided Blanket.”

In a three-generation household, the grandfather is about to be thrown out of his own house by his ungrateful son, who is tired of caring for him. His little grandson intervenes, cuts a blanket in half and gives the half to his grandfather as a protection against the cold out on the streets.

The young boy promises that when the time comes for him similarly to throw his own father out of his house, he will then hand him the other half of the blanket. Predictably, given this unexpected warning, the son then repents and allows the old man, his father, to stay.

An Irish proverb warns: “If you give your son an inch of his way, he’ll take a yard.” If the old have been foolish enough to divest themselves of all their possessions to the point of being as naked “as a peeled twig,” they were at the mercy of their own children, who were not always kind to useless mouths.

Old men were depicted as seeking nothing more than hogging coveted space by the fire. Old women had long ceased to delight but might be useful as child minders.

This story of the divided blanket resonates in our fiscally stressed decade and conveys the perennial wisdom with the same implied advice: Mind your children and your assets! And may you hope for such a wise grandson or bank teller, if need be!

Robert F. Lyons


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