And no one thinks the curtain will rise with themselves starring in Old Age. We thought old people came that way, never imagining they were once young
Our culture turns away from wrinkles, bald heads, age spots, arthritic knuckles and doesn’t value wisdom and experience. The time arrives that elders are moved to “a place that can take care of them,” meaning three meals a day, laundry, and TV, or to a place where they can be around other people “your age,” meaning bingo, crazy hat day, and movie night. You say that’s what we need when what we know is that we’ve become inconvenient. We get put away in a place where we won’t burden others with the infirmities that come with aging. Even if it’s a nice place, it isn’t home. We have more to offer than ever before, yet we annoy younger folks because we don’t hear well, don’t see well, and our short term memory seems to have turned into a sieve
We don’t want to be put away. We want to be with our families, want to hug the new babies as they come along, watch the movie, eat the meals, have tea parties with the children, and enjoy the family we know and love. We feel secure with those we’ve spent our lives with instead of having to make new friends at the end stage of life as if we are just starting grade school.
Our opinions aren’t valued because if what we think doesn’t match what younger people think, we’re automatically wrong, even though it’s about 99 percent likely that we know what we’re talking about.
We don’t want to be burdens. We can’t help that going to the doctor’s office has become a ritual we’d rather avoid but can’t because the old jalopy is falling apart. We hope that those around us see us no differently except the tread on the tires are wearing thin. We want our family, friends, and professionals to leave us with our dignity and self-respect no matter how inconvenient we are.
Remember, we are the ones who carried, for nine months, future generations, in our bellies, morning sickness and all. We brought helpless, tiny bundles home and kept you warm, safe, healthy, and educated until, like birds in the nest, you were ready to fly. We are the ones who took temperatures and cleaned up all manner of bodily fluids while we rocked your fever away and watched you in case a dash to the emergency room was necessary. We are the reason you’re so well, so smart, so educated, such lovely people. You didn’t get here by yourself. Please don’t leave us to fend for ourselves now when we need your help, just like you needed help back then, or you wouldn’t have survived. Please don’t be critical and tired of us; you wouldn’t know the things you know without us teaching you how to thread a needle, drive a car, avoid cross-contaminating food, so you don’t give yourself food poisoning, how to make a bed, butter toast, all kinds of necessary things you didn’t know when you were born.
Most importantly, you have your resilience, your kindness to others, your good heart, your curiosity to learn new things because we loved you that much. We put up with all manner of inconveniences, some seemingly impossible like sitting up all night holding a sick baby or going to your school when summoned by a teacher who told us you needed extra help at home because you’re not doing so well in math. We didn’t tell the teacher it looked like Greek to us. We figured it out and then helped you.
We loved you with the fierceness of the sun at high noon. All we want now is for you to keep us. Let us be part of our family until the last sun sets and dips below the horizon until we become the grandmother in the photograph who always had root beer in her refrigerator and cookies in the cookie jar. The mother and grandmother who loved each one of you as if you were our favorite, you never knowing how easy that was because every one of you is unique and special. You are loved for exactly who you are.
So please let us stay, unless we’re too sick and need special care, with you because we love you as fiercely as ever, and our hearts are happy being involved and still counted as a viable part of our family. Let us stay with you until the very end, even if we continue to live in the house you left so long ago. Phone calls, visits, shared meals, and family excursions, knowing you’re only a car ride away, keep us feeling safe and content. Help us bear this last transition, the one you will make too. Love us as we loved you, even though, looking in the rear-view mirror, we wish we’d done it better. It wasn’t perfect. It was the best we knew how to do.