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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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Watching your parents get old

As an adult child, to watch our parents get old and frail is indeed an unnerving phenomenon. However, we must embrace the cycle of life and cherish every moment that we get to spend with them

An anonymous quote says it all, “Growing up is all about watching your parents grow older and dying a little inside every time.” It is a heartbreaking and inescapably challenging phenomenon to watch our parents – individuals who were once young and active – grow old and frail and to come to terms with the ensuing anxiety and anticipatory sorrow. Summoning the courage and strength to embrace the cycle of life is inexpressibly sad but imperative. We get to live. Likewise, we get to die.

Every single time the reality sinks in that my beloved parents shall sadly not be with me for a lifetime, trust me, it simply breaks my heart. There is no escaping this stark reality of life as the thought of life going on without our parents continues to linger. One of the few ways to calm the anxiety is to focus on effective caregiving techniques like nurturing, reassuring, protecting, loving, and ensuring no compromise on our parent’s dignity and respect.

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This is what true and pure love is all about, allowing us to be as good of a son or daughter as is humanly possible. To avoid caregiver burnout, especially in our part of the world where there is no concept of assisted living for the elderly, it is imperative that we vent our anxiety as catharsis in order to remain calm in stressful situations.

There are bound to be issues that will require our redressal with most of them being beyond our competence making us feel helpless and frustrated. In my humble opinion, give parental care problems your best but do not try playing God. We cannot defy nature.  Acceptance of not just other people but our own growth to old age is critical to face the ultimate consequence of death. Let us not escape by turning a deaf ear or hiding the first signs of aging with anti-wrinkle creams. It is a futile exercise to search ways to deny, avoid or soften the pain.

Sometimes, I get sad and do not want to think about my parents as old, but then I realize prudently that it is a reality of life. If we do not want these issues to weigh us down, rob us of the joys to come or become the elephant in the room, all solutions must be considered.

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My parents have not chosen to grow old. For me, it gets really frustrating because I want them to be as they were, full of energy.  In fact, I am sure, if they can choose, I know they will choose to stay young and vibrant like a lot of people will. But they cannot and I need to understand that. I need to have patience. I need to accept who they have become. Therefore, I have adapted. I understand. I accept. I have changed my mind set to enjoy them as they are.

With my parents, there was not any sudden landmark change from their transition as care-givers to that of being care-receivers. This basically entails a role reversal of the parent-child relationship dynamic. From being protected, we as adult children become the protector. A sense of responsibility for parental well being dawns on us as we step up to the front line.

When our parents get to a certain age, some health problems are bound to arise; we shall witness them walking slowly; not remaining swift in their responses and reflexes or eventual hospitalization wherein life support and saving machines are attached to them. Since paternal love is the ultimate, it is emotionally and physically taxing to watch your mother and father suffer.

I always considered my parents as “invincible” and calling the shots but their inevitable ageing reminds me that they are not. Earlier, it would be me asking my parents for help with things or asking them questions about the world. Now, it has been more them asking me about a changing world they find increasingly difficult to adapt to. It is strange, but it is natural. Physical and behavioral changes in an ageing parent bring a change in our parental image, that of authority, autonomy, physical strength and social success.

It all begins to fade. I always saw my father as a strong man who was there to protect us. We all see our dads as these big strong men who work hard, protect us, and just take care of things.

We see our moms as our caretakers who are always there to make sure our needs are attended to so that we know we are loved.  I do not know about all of you but for all of my life when I looked at my parents they seemed to be frozen at the same age. All through my growing up they looked the same age to me. Strong, energetic and young.

That is how they have always appeared to me.  Always, that is, until now. Now I see a cute little white haired mom who is fragile and breakable, and I see a gray haired father who walks a little slower than he once did. Both senior citizens, the realization is finally hitting me that one day down the road and I pray that it is many more years down the road still, these two people who have been the absolute rock and foundation of my life may no longer be with me. I too shall have to summon the courage, strength and faith to come to terms with the end of their lives and let nature take its own course. Life must go on and we must write new chapters.

Looking on the bright side of this situation though, medical advancement has enabled people to live much longer. The generations before us had to watch their parents go much sooner relative to us, therefore we must thank science for allowing our loved ones especially our parents to live long.

Let us cherish the time that we are destined to spend with them and not take their presence for granted. Speaking from my experience, I have developed a great relationship with my parents as an only eldest daughter. We have all learnt to accept each other as human beings and enjoy each other’s company. We look forward to spending quality time with each other.

Concluding, honor and celebrate their lives while they are here. Continue to embody the spirit of your blessed parents by living forward in this confounding, mysterious and wondrous cycle of life. Take the lessons you have learned from your parents and enjoy them. I want more than ever to make them proud and show them that they did a good job raising me. I came across this quote: “The cycle of life starts with creation, moves towards evolution, ends in dissolution, but leaves our traces to the new generation.”


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