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On Becoming an "Elder" After the Death of One's Parents

Updated on March 2, 2012
Courtesy: teenagerstoday.com
Courtesy: teenagerstoday.com

On Youth

I am not privy to the demographic data for HubPages in general, but with so many users, I imagine it is fairly representative of the U.S. So I begin this narrative with the younger people in mind. Most of you are fortunate enough to have living parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. They serve as the keepers of wisdom, the family elders we look up to, hopefully. Whether or not we 'get along' with these folks is really not the point-it is that they simply exist. They have something we cannot be given, we must earn it-experience. Ideally, there is an familial 'umbrella' that exists so that youth may flourish. Our elders are there to wipe our noses, kiss our boo-boos, and listen to youthful angst. The lives they have lived give them the knowledge to do these things properly. Once again, I wish to emphasize that it is the ideal family situation that I am portraying here, which is almost a rarity in our current society.

Stuck in the Middle With Me

I've been middle-aged for some time now, and at 53, I think I just better get used to the idea. It's not so easy, you realize-during my first 25 years I had access to a virtual family shelter-where I could certainly turn somewhat comfortably when in need. Enter longer lifespans, and these relationships can last far longer than ever before in human history. And of course the complexity of the modern age adds to the myriad of information we are required to assimilate. A brief article in USA Today caught my attention regarding this matter:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-11-12-women-study_x.htm

But as the years go by, our elders pass away-some of these deaths leaving us somewhat stunned and lost. We are left with their memories and teachings, their wisdom and knowledge. All of this is, of course, one of the more difficult aspects of the human condition.

Courtesy: thestrals-00
Courtesy: thestrals-00

The Process

Aging is forever taking place, whether we like it or not. I see my mother's face in the mirror now, and it is somewhat disconcerting. And these years have a tendency to creep up on you; one day you simply notice that you don't look young any longer-and it's mighty strange, indeed. Now it didn't happen all at once, certainly, my first experience with apparent aging was the fact that nobody 'carded' me any longer. Initially, I was thrilled, then, horrified. Of course I was all of 25 at the time, but felt ancient and hurt. But I was quick to get over it, and went on with other matters so critical when in one's 20's.

As I went somewhat fearlessly though my thirties and forties, I was forced to realize that I, indeed, was becoming one of them.  No longer could I blame youth for my questionable ways, I was now becoming an elder.  Dozens upon dozens of nieces and nephews cropped up-how did such a thing come about?  Christmas cards now bear the visages of my cousins who are currently identical to their parents so very long ago.  Disturbing.

Courtesy: dommelon.com
Courtesy: dommelon.com

And So It Goes...

Death, I suppose, is the true culprit here, for it is the one which forces all of us to this position. Once my relatives began to die, I saw each as a terrible yet temporary sorrow, yet now I see them as a cumulative personal status. I am the last in my line. I am one of the ones considered 'old.' There are no more cushions between death and me. I heard somewhere once that once your parents have passed, you are considered God's orphan. I cannot complain.

I imagine the inspiration for this writing came from my increasing awareness of the behavior of other people toward me. Whether I want it or not, I am a 'Ma'am'-unless such terminology is strictly forbidden by me. All of my physicians are younger than I, and some still bear pimples. It has taken this lifetime to earn respect, and I do enjoy it, yet I wonder how those who went before me felt at my age. They must have been as seriously confused as I am today.

How I will handle this status is up to me-and I do hope to have many years left to enjoy it.

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    • profile image

      lyricsingray 7 years ago

      Now once agin, your Hub touches me - stop doing that j/k. Loved it, Kimberly

      ps-fun getting older is say.

    • Georgiakevin profile image

      Georgiakevin 7 years ago from Central Georgia

      Wow what a captivating hub. Sadly aging is not something we can change except by dying and I am not ready for that. You and I are close to the same age so have been concerned about this too. I will say this you are a very young looking 53 year old. Maybe it's a typo and it should read 43.

    • Tammy Lochmann profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 7 years ago

      Lorlie I really enjoy your musings for lack of something better to say. On the subject of my own aging I somehow feel that I have earned every wrinkle and every grey hair. Thanks again for letting me look inside your head and your heart.

    • BEAUTYBABE profile image

      BEAUTYBABE 7 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

      Hey Lady,

      You may be the last one in the family line missy, but you are not an elder. You are still a YOUNG 53, just like me In fact, if anything I am ageing faster than you, so I am more of an ELDER THAN YOU. Your family sounded amazing, now I don't want to hear any more about being old. This was nevertheless a very sincere hub. I loved it ,except that bit. okay God Bless Beautybabe.x

    • profile image

      liminal 7 years ago

      I'm 48 and both of my parents have passed away. I once read someone describe the death of first one parent and then the other as being like having the roof ripped of your house - you're on your own now, the safety net is gone, no one to catch you.

      On the other hand, I don't feel old, I feel just as irresponsible, just as mischievous and just as curious about everything as when I was 25.

      Not all of the people on HubPages are American, but the U.S. shares one thing in common with its satellites: we all have aging populations. A very good hub!

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 7 years ago from Pakistan

      A young lady married an old man. After about a week, she was asked how she felt and she said, “I feel old age is creeping on me.” That is no answer. Old age is creeping on everyone. There are tell tale signs but it is best to ignore it and carry on the business as usual till nature intervenes.

      Thanks for a good hub.

    • itakins profile image

      itakins 7 years ago from Irl

      Lorlie6-

      A touching hub-I think the death of a second parent shocks us in to serious reality checks-sometimes I have found I have felt so despondent I actually get confused as to which parent I am grieving for on a particular day-it's profound loss and a different role-no longer anyone's child! It can force one to grow up,regardless of age!

    • profile image

      Nicks 7 years ago

      I loved Shakespeare's description of Cleopatra: 'Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety...' It is not great getting older and the loss of parents and elder relatives. But this is the very essence of an all too short life mitigated, the older we become (if we are lucky enough to do so), by greater depth and understanding of life and its transitory state.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Lyrics-you're a doll, thanks for stopping by to be touched. Ha Ha.

      Georgiakevin-Oops, I meant 23!

      Tammy-I know I've earned mine. Thanks for your comment.

      Beautybabe-I know I'm still only in the middle of life, but you're right, I need to keep perspective.

      liminal-you're such a joy when you visit-I love the roof analogy. I am also very mischievous and irresponsible-that's what worries me!

      hafeezerm-You are so very right-thanks for the reminder.

      itakins-I've never thought of it that way-thanks for the heads up.

      Nicks-I really appreciate your input, reminding me of Shakespeare's words.

    • Quilligrapher profile image

      Quilligrapher 7 years ago from New York

      An enjoyable read. Thank you. As I approach my 70th birthday, I clearly remember the event, long ago, that made me suddenly realized that I had entered a new stage in my life. It was the day that a young man offered me his seat on a crowded New York City subway. I knew then that I was getting old. LOL

      Q.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Quillographer-Though I've awhile before my 70's hit, I get what you mean!

    • profile image

      kami 7 years ago

      An enjoyable read. Thank you.

    • profile image

      toto 7 years ago

      An enjoyable read. Thank you.

    • Marquis profile image

      Marquis 7 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

      Good living. There are some who never made it to 20, nevertheless, some who never even made it out of the womb.

    • profile image

      Nicks 7 years ago

      Perhaps, I should also provide a more prosaic saying than Shakespeare's. My mother quips: 'Getting old is not for the weak hearted' - which I rather like. Anyone else have something similar?

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      lorelie, very nice reading, but you are still young-er! when I hear elder, I think 80+. When I lost my mother, I just couldn't imagine life without her. Even in her dying moments, she was smiling and telling my oldest son something through her eyes. We couldn't hear her words. I love elderly people and it's nice to see hubs written about them. They need our love and time, even a smile can lift their hearts. now, girl, put on your dancing shoes and live it up!

      :)

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, rebekahELLE, for your comment. I think the idea of this hub is that there is a change in status once our elders are gone.

      I will be dancing as soon as I finish writing this! :o)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this inevitable process. Have you read Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's wonderful book "From Ageing to Sageing"? You are becoming not an elder but a sage!

      Love and peace.

      Tony

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I'm right there with ya, girlfriend - just 2 years behind! We're not old!! I refuse to grow up!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      tonymac-I sure hope so!

      habee-Me too!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good! I was a little worried about you!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      We are going older soon. The point is how to passed the day and enjoy this life. The body look older than before but the spirit still young, right.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thank you for your encouraging words, prasetio30-I will keep what you have said in mind daily!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Tis sad but true we are but a vapor that appears for a little while and then we are gone. Your Hub is a fine read and expresses much about the human condition. I enjoyed your writing. Thank you.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thank you, James. Sometimes it is comforting to know that we are just that, momentary.

      I always appreciate your stopping by.

    • profile image

      peacenhim 7 years ago

      Beautiful writing! We all are headed in the same direction, the key is to be able to change gracefully with each season. Easier said than done, although you seem to be handling change very well. Your thoughts remind me of that Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide."

      Oh, mirror in the sky

      What is love

      Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides

      Can I handle the seasons of my life

      Well, I've been afraid of changing

      'cause I've built my life around you

      But time makes you bolder

      Children get older

      I'm getting older too.

      I too have days of reflecting and with more family members and close friends passing away, it only mirrors my own age and immortality.

      In His Love.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      You are too kind, peacenhim. I wasn't thinking of that song-one of my all-time favorites-when I wrote this, but I do see where the lyrics apply.

      Thanks again.

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      Well I have been an orphan for some time now. But I refuse to be either an elder or a sage. When that happens much is expected of you, that is a burden I shall not carry. I will stay young forever you see. In my dreams and in my failing heart. Thanks for your love and sentiments darling woman. And your prayers too. xox Charlie I love this hub, really! great job.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, Charlie! I have been so worried about your health-as have many others on this site-so it is with joy I read your comments. Perhaps I'm too serious in life, and feel I SHOULD grow up...but I'm going to take your sweet words to heart and relax a bit.

      May your heart stay young-despite what 'they' say!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Lorlie, your hubs are always so touching and you know what, I have six friends before I came here in the US, they are all 60 plus I am the youngest almost half their ages, but I adore them and miss them too, they give me wisdom, they have fears too, dying, but then its normal,I wish I could meet them when I go home, Miss them a lot plus my parents too..

      thank you Lorlie, Maita

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thank you so, Maita, for your kind words. Aging is a global reality and none of us stays young.

      I hope you get to see your parents soon!

    • theirishobserver. profile image

      theirishobserver. 7 years ago from Ireland

      Great Hub, you clearly care about the topic and write with great passion....well done

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, theirishobserver, I appreciate the feedback!

    • mdlawyer profile image

      mdlawyer 7 years ago

      Your hub is very nice. The aging process and the phases of life presented are exquisite observations.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      Being a member of a church where the average age is close to 80 can be a humbling and enlightening experience. These vital, energetic, lovely people (elders, senior statesmen) call me a young person, and I have a year or two on you, lorlie. I do feel like a kid around some of them, too! I guess it's all in your perspective ;) I don't plan to totally grow up either ;D

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, mdlawyer, for your kind words. I really appreciate the feedback.

      RedElf-Have you ever read "Water for Elephants?" This little book was a reminder to me that these real elders have such incredibly rich stories to share-if we take the time to listen.

    • tipperary profile image

      tipperary 7 years ago

      Hmm, getting older, i dont want to think about that, but your right, we all are. Do you know in my early twenties, when i was raising young children, because i found myself so housebound and alone sometimes i felt old. Imagine that, i think when life is good and full we tend to feel younger no matter what age you are. Great hub!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, tipperary, for stopping by-I do know what you mean!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

      lorlie6, it seems we have a large demographics here of hubbers who refuse to grow up. I think I'll join that list, and drag you along with me. You are not old!

      I very much enjoyed this, you certainly have a way of saying what's on your heart. Thank you for sharing.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Ah, Duchess-you are so right! Feeling that I am now an 'elder' really reflects nothing to do with my age, but my position as the eldest in my immediate family. It's a strange process, but one I have to take on!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      A very touching hub and I feel the same way. My granddaughter graduates from high school this year. Where did the years go? Very good hub.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Isn't it amazing, Pamela? Thanks for your words and understanding!

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 7 years ago

      Very nice Hub. My mother's side of the family has a reunion each year, and certain announcements are made. Including who the oldest family member is. Right now my mother holds that title at aged 90. Bless her heart, I hope she holds it for another 10 years at least!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      That is an amazing way to honor your eldest! God bless your mother, Cathi, may she live another 90!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Laurel

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      Hi Lorlie, 53 is not an old age, definitely not elder. Try to keep yourself busy and mix with a lot of people. I wonder if there is anything you can do to work with teens, even if its once a week. etc

      Anyway, I enjoyed your Hub. You have so much ahead of you. A loooot. Please don't take your age into consideration.

      Best Wishes

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks Lady_E-I'm only an 'elder' in the sense that all my forefathers/mothers have passed, making me the eldest now. It's a strange perspective! You know, I love working with teens at our local library-they may know more about computers there, but I know much more about actual books!

      Thanks again,

      Laurel

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      lorlie, I love this hub and I can see myself as you say, as an elder one. I used to be the youngest one in the room, because I always enjoyed being around older ones. Now the tables are turned, now I'm the one that young ones like to be around, because I'm the older one. Of course, I take it all in stride, and I'm enjoying this phase of my life. Very good hub.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks, fastfreta-the turning of those tables is strange, yet natural!

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 7 years ago

      Lorlie and to all you YOUNG-UN'S above I an many others solved this problem long ago. Check by hub---(Age Can Be Colorful)

      P.S. my mother taught me this one.Thanks for the great read.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Yep, Ginn, I know I'm a YOUNG-UN! But still when the ones older than I have passed on, it makes me the older one!

      I intend to check out your hub-

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Laurel

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      When I turned forty I thought oh boy this is it.

      When I turned sixty I thought gee Ive survived and reaching that age in my opinion is a real BONUS as many do not especially some of our children

      Now I am nearly seventy I think that every day I wake up and see the sunshine then its a real bonus

      So w all need to enjoy our youth between 50 to 80 with open arms. Speaking of arms I got a real shock when standing in front of the mirror one day and saw the flapping skin hanging down under my arms. Wow then I knew life was passing me by. great hub thanks for sharing that

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Wow, Eileen-I truly appreciate this input, especially since I tend to forget my relative youth.

      Thanks so much,

      Laurel

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      I am so happy to have found this hub Lorlie! It is awesome to know we are never alone on the journey of our lives and that others can empathize with the same feeling we do about many things.i embrace "crone-dom" and honestly think youth is wasted on the young...haha...glad to be one of your peers on this journey!

      Nasmaste

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Aley-I am honored by your presence! Youth is indeed wasted on the young...and then here we are. I don't imagine I'll be calling us 'crones' any time soon, but middle age has arrived in its full regalia!

      Thanks for coming by!

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I just really like this hub - read it a while ago (about a month ago) and came back to refresh my memory, lorlie6. A friend has been pondering over some of the same things as on your hub when we have conversations, so I emailed her the link to this hub this morning. I think it will assure her that she's not the only one thinking about aging. I happen to think she's young at heart, anyway - and in no way is acting like the "old fogey" she thinks she's becoming lol I hope she reads you last line here several times!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks so much, mythbuster-I thank you for coming by again and hope your friend feels younger as you say she should. I know it can be difficult, but friends like you make all the difference!

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

      Age is a matter of mind...if you don't mind, it doesn't matter! :)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Hi lorlie6 - I so agree with you! So many of my friends who, like me, have crossed 50 felt their age when the older generation passed away. I count myself fortunate to have both parents living and I believe that as long as I can still be a 'child', I don't feel my age and I bless each day I have them!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Feline Prophet-a truer statement never has been uttered!

      Shalini-you are quite fortunate to have your parents, be a child as long as you can!

    • suny51 profile image

      suny51 7 years ago

      Hi lorlie

      following you on this count too.I am almost there,but one with

      so much creativity would never be old.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thank you for your kind words, suny51!

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 7 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Enjoyed this hub and all the comments. Getting older is not really a big deal. Don't forget, those who are younger than you, just got out of the starting gate, those older than you are approaching the finish line. It's all relative really.

      And remember the real reason why old people are fond of giving youth advise.... "they are less apt to still be a bad example" LOL -- Me- I hope I remain a bad example for a few more years. At 54, the few more years is the challenge.

      Full Speed Ahead - One Inch At A Time.

      Neil

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Neil, thanks for stopping by! Good for you-being a bad example! Heh, heh. I think I'll loosen up a bit thanks to these words.

    • terrowhite profile image

      terrowhite 7 years ago

      VEry enjoyable read.. lovely hub thanks for sharing this with us.. :)

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      I appreciate the comment, terrowhite!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      You are still a delight! Great hub!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Making the rounds, friend? Love it. This morning in fact I have a new status-GRANDMOTHER! My step-daughter gave birth to William Noah at 11:06 last night giving me a lovely new role!

      Elder ain't so bad after all.

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 7 years ago

      Great hub, Lorie and you've got some time before you become an elder. Enjoy the perks. I always say that if I manage to make it to senior years, I'm going to be the most wicked dementia patient on earth. (Whether or not I'm lucid--;-))

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thanks so much for your comment, SJ.

      Lucidity is for the birds, I say!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      Wonderful article.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Thank you, Pamela-I really thank you for stopping by!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      hello my friend - I sincerely hope all is well with you today. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement of my writing. Keep thinking good thoughts and please keep in touch!

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Aw, epi-you've become quite the positive presence on this site! I'm proud to be a follower.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 6 years ago

      Ahhh to forgive ourselves the idiousy of our youth. My life mission at times , stay well....

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      ahorseback-self forgiveness is incredibly difficult! I think I definitely get it when you liken your life to a mission!

      Thanks so much for coming by!

    • profile image

      Heartlandlady 6 years ago

      When I read your hub it was like you had read my mind. I have been thinking alot about the same thing. I am 72 and some days think my mind and body are going fast.LOL

      Thank you for letting me know I am not alone. My family calls me the matriarch. I take that as a compliment. Again, thanks for waking me up to let me know I am not alone at this time of my life. This is my first day here and I think I am going to love it.

    • lorlie6 profile image
      Author

      Laurel Rogers 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Welcome to HubPages, Heartlandlady! Do you have an account set up yet? There are a lot of people here that feel the same as we do.

      I haven't been called the matriarch yet, but I AM. It's so strange to relate to relate to those who have yet to live their lives-I mean completely!

      Thanks so much for coming by-hope to see you soon.

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