Time to take away the keys? It’s moms call

My husband and I work full time and are fortunate to have his retired parents living nearby to help with our two kids. They have been very generous in picking the kids up from school and driving them to activities. However, my father-in-law, who has always driven a bit fast for my taste, has had a series of eye procedures that seem to have affected his driving. In the past six months, he has caused two fender benders. My husband, mother-in-law, and his ophthalmologist say my father-in-law is fine to drive. But I am worried about having our kids in his car when he does. Annette

Dear Annette: That your father-in-law has had eye procedures is less worrisome than the fact that he is heavy on the pedal and has caused two accidents in six months. Also, unless his ophthalmologist has ridden in a car with your father-in-law, the good doctor is not qualified to evaluate his ability to drive. There are many factors beyond eyesight that affect our driving. As we age, reflexes, reaction times and cognition deteriorate, albeit at unpredictable rates. It’s possible grandpa’s recent car crashes have nothing to do with his vision but are symptoms of some other age-related issue, especially if he tends to be heavy on the pedal. Moreover, his wife and son may be reluctant to face that fact or confront him with it.

But you are the mother and, Mensch believes, the ultimate authority on what’s best for your kids and their safety. Our roads are as congested as ever and drivers increasingly hurried and distracted. Find an excuse to ride with your father-in-law and see for yourself how he’s doing.

If you are at all uncomfortable, you should find another arrangement for transporting your kids when you cannot yourself. Your father-in-law deserves your gratitude for his generosity and your support in maintaining his dignity and autonomy. But the time will come, and it may already be here, when he should no longer be on the road.
Can you tell me some of your favorite Jewish movies? — Stephanie

Dear Stephanie: Due to the paucity of letters seeking advice, Mensch will happily weigh in on your cinema-related question, though it’s not clear what you mean by “Jewish movie.” Are you referring to a movie about Judaism, made by a Jew, or featuring characters or issues with Jewish flavor? And how Jewish is Jewish?

During the ’70s and ’80s, when Woody Allen produced a series of cinematic masterpieces that made his reputation, he brought to the screen characters and subject matter that perfectly represented a broad segment of Jewish culture. Though these movies and the culture they represent arguably are dated and skewed toward a New York aesthetic, if you are looking for Jews in film, “Annie Hall,” “Radio Days,” “Broadway Danny Rose” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” are entertaining and masterfully crafted examples.

Another great place to look for Jewish themes and characters is in the vibrant filmmaking of Israel. “Fill the Void” (Lemale et Ha’Halal) is a fascinating and intense movie depicting universal themes of love, loss and extended family allegiances that just happens to take place among ultra-Orthodox Jews. The film was written and directed by a woman who lives in that world and it won seven Israeli Ophir Awards. “Footnote” (Hearat Shulayim) takes place in a more lighthearted and secular milieu and tells the story of a son and his elderly father competing for academic glory as talmudic scholars.

From France, “Aliyah” is an interesting film about a low-level drug dealer from Paris who moves to Israel to start a new life. It is gritty, suspenseful and refreshing in its representation of a kind of Jewish life rarely depicted in entertainment.

Lastly, even though “Schindler’s List” focuses on a deadly serious subject vital to all Jews and depicts tragedy and suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, it is one of the most brilliant and stunning works of cinema ever created.

Jonathan Harris
Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris is a synagogue administrator and writer-editor living in San Francisco with his wife, three daughters and an ungrateful cat. He can be reached at advicemensch@gmail.com.