Many years ago, when I was in my teens, I remember being outside of our house in Glen Rock and my dad having a conversation with some of his friends. At the time, these men were in their mid-40s and the topic of conversation was the onset of various aches and pains that they were feeling as they began to age. For some reason, that small slice of memory has stuck with me, most likely causing me to wonder if I will be having a similar conversation with my friends as I get older. I am at an age where my peers have had knee replacements, hip replacements, back surgery, take medicines for this and that, etc.; but no general conversation about our aches and pains. Many of us are blessed with still having our parents alive. Through the wonders of advanced medicine, we all have the opportunity to live longer lives, be productive members of society longer and, unfortunately, become more prone to ailments, etc., than prior generations. Our conversations are not about us, but are more about our parents.
As children, most (but not all), look towards their parents for wisdom, insight and, yes, approval. The last one in that list does not change, even when we have children of our own, have some successes in our lives and are completely independent from our parents. In my mind, my father is still fit, able to get around easily and be a sounding board (whether we or not we agree on everything is irrelevant). Because of this view, I (selectively?) forget that he had back surgeries, strokes and uses a walker. My eyes see this, but my mind does not. As with all living creatures, as we get older, the signs of aging keep creeping into view. At my age, if I extend my fingers straight out and look at the back of my hands, the skin is no longer taunt and no longer has a youthful appearance. This means, that as our parents age, we need to become more alert to the changes that they are going through, as hard as that is, and as much as we do not want to see it.
Yes, you got it. Our conversations are not about our aches and pains, but about our parents’. Whether they are close by, or at a distance, when needed, we all run to check on them. It does not matter if they are nearby, a state away, a short flight away or in a different country, we go to them. There has become the role reversal – when they fall, we are the ones to pick them back up, tell them everything is OK and encourage them. They had done these things for us, now it is our turn to do for them. Part of accepting the fact that they are older helps when it comes to providing them advice and making decisions that really are for their benefit. While we remember to enjoy our children while they are young and the various stages that they only go through in their lives, we now must remember to do the same with our parents. For once those stages pass, they only live on in our memories.