This time a reflection on dealing with aging.
It goes like this: After we grow up, marry and establish our own homes, we build a natural distance, a valley that requires a bridge to cross back to our maternal/paternal homes. Years of growing up on our own, adulthood, and creation of our own domain adds to the length of a bridge to cross later on. Our own children come along and then they themselves fly away.
Obviously, such is my own, Western perspective on aging and family relations. As over the years I was able to observe diverse cultures, their reverence for the family elders and respect for the ancestors, I marveled at continuity of family ties. It was fascinating to watch and learn how members of direct and extended families live together under the same roof, and amazingly stay happy forever and together.
Last week, I heard a story about seven siblings living in a two-bedroom dwelling, cheerful as ever and happily dreaming of better times with more space to enjoy together. Brothers and sisters were living in the same bedroom, sharing oversized beds and good-for-nothing room partitions. Imagination takes over wher considering their adolescent inquisitiveness and challengin innoscence and privacy. From the next room-cum-kitchen mom and dad were managing their family's everydayness.
This blog reflection is perhaps not very inventive and fresh, but none-the-less, it is mine. I ask myself, how would I manage such a livelihood today?
In a minefield of my predictable dilemmas, I pause to reflect on what type of a bridge I must build between my "today," and that of my own parents. Their aging moved them on and brought them to the largely unchartered autumn days of their lives. Decades ago we left our maternal and paternal homes and moved to a far away land. To have a meaningful, direct contact, we meet perhaps once a year only. All else is a virtual, mediated and proxy-like communication at best.
Yet, whenever we meet them, our elderly parents remind us that we are still their kids. To add, they remind us that we need their counsel and corrective advice. The fact that my dad is nearly 87 does not make him less of a concerned parent, though hardly conversant with the culture and the mindset of "my generation."
A recent visit with our aging parents, brought a few new reflections. Point one, we still have our parents. They are alive and as loving as ever. You still have living parents, my friend David told me. Enjoy them.
And yet ...
A distance measured in thousands of miles apart does not contribute to effective bridge-building one requires between generations, who seem also far apart through cultural divide and generational challenges. Being members of same faith helps, but also discribes plenty of diverse options as to how to read it's practices, norms and forms. For we are apart, in many and diverse ways. Family ties and relationships notwithstanding, we have grown to accept polarized views and choices.
A few more points.
We are stuck in a resolve that all is possible, they are expecting their encroaching finality.
We crave new opportunities, they are parked in their traditional, predictable way of living.
We speak of healthy living, they are suspicious about our recommendations, and talk about surviving numerous health challenges as seen through their doctors and medications.
We talk about new worlds to conquer, they reminisce about trips they took in the 80+ years of their lives.
We seek a new golden age, theirs is a nostalgia for the golden years they seemingly had.
For Grazyna and me, our joint bridge-building with our parents still in progress, a few days in August and September gave us an opportunity to consider their challenges now, and our challenges to be met in the future.
What an amazingly rich journey for the six of us. But as we could ask questions, and listen, our parents were challenged to provide us with their answers and desires. Honestly, the best we could offer is listening and a conversation expected of the adults.
But, whose journey is easier, I ask?
Who cares how difficult is the journey ahead? For both sets of parents in their 80s and for the two of us. All such journeys, we resolve, will require to be nourished with love.
Loving, caring, expecting the unexpected - that's what actually matters most for both of us.