Jess Allred and his son, Jay Allred.

MANSFIELD -- In July of last year my Dad was diagnosed with advanced, stage four cancer. In the span of a few hours he went from being a healthy and vigorous 77-year-old to one who needed a lot more help than he was used to accepting.

Cancer changed everything for him and everyone who loves him.

Oddly, cancer has been kind of good to our family. We found dozens of new things to be thankful for. Old friends emerged out of nowhere. Minor problems and concerns melted away and were forgotten. We spend a lot more time together now. These are the good things.

They don’t come without cost.

Our roles, a little bit at a time, began to shift. This would have likely happened one way or another as Dad aged, but in our case it was like a traffic light. One day it was green, the next day red.

He has always taken care of us, now it’s time to return the favor. New worries and concerns crept in and follow me around everywhere.

  • Am I doing the right thing?

  • What needs to happen next?

  • How much should I intervene?

  • What does mom need?

  • How can my brother and I and our families help?

  • How do we fight this? And should we?

  • What conversations do we need to have?

Our Solutions Journalism series, Gray Matters, was all academic for me until now. Creating a healthier community for our elders was something I cared about, for sure, but I could personally kick that can down the road for a while. “Not there yet,” I could whisper.

Not anymore.

Support Our Journalism

So when Courtney McNaull and Noah Jones approached me with an idea to change the format of The Gray Q & A to focus on relationships and people, I was ready to listen. They sought a conversation about how the universal themes of getting older had changed one individual relationship.

Maybe, they reasoned, it could open the door to other conversations for other families.

So what do two lifelong media men do? They talk about it. On the record.

Dad and I both hope you find something here worthwhile. If you’re interested in appearing on the Gray Q&A, Courtney and Noah want to talk to you. You can reach them at courtney@ashlandsource.com and noah@richlandsource.com.

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.