Nothing prepares kids for the time their parents grow old; nothing is as devastating as that. They react to it as though the parent has betrayed them. My personal take on the subject is rather like Anthony Powell’s who said “Growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.”
It is very strange, growing old is inevitable, but the reactions are so strong against it. One has to accept it, and I do, for most part. My hinges and joints need oiling, I need my pills, my brain is chock full of old incidents and concepts, which growing information and technology has made redundant, and I can get repetitive. My kids groan and talk down to me, they have more information and they do not hesitate or mince words when they tell me that.
We used to value our grandparents and parents for the experience and wisdom they could impart. The younger generation just Googles it! Technology, I have a very big bone to pick with you. You’ve made me obsolete!
But that apart, you know what does not go obsolete? The parent-child bond. We like to see the parent as a safe haven, a sanctuary, the primary care giver. If I close my eyes and recollect my parents, I remember them as young, vigorous, vibrant and happy. They have since passed on, but that is the memory I carry, not the image of them old, tired, and feeble. And that is natural.
It hit me one day, when I was more than normally impatient with my father as he carefully counted out change and handed it to a fruit vendor. Time had thinned his once luxuriant head of hair, it was silver, his shoulders were slightly drooped and his movements slow. I bit back the urge to pay the man myself and hurry him up. When had he grown old?
And then the typical self-absorbed thought every kid faces hit me, “What about me? Who’ll watch my back now and when he passes on?”
I recently had a health scare. I expected concern, I expected love and care.
My sons reacted completely contrary to that! The younger one was at home; he took me to the hospital, stayed with me and did whatever was necessary. No mollycoddling – mind you. The older one was furious. He said I had brought it upon myself and when he came back to the country (he was abroad) he scolded me.
It confused me at first, I am past 50 and aging is natural. I have lived a stressful life. Health issues are a natural progression of stress. Then it hit me.
They are my kids. I am aging, and they are simply unable to accept it. They are my kids, they are unable to give me the reassurance I need. Instead I have to reassure them and keep looking young and vigorous; the way my parents did for me, so that I would continue to feel secure.
Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at www.phoenixritu.com