Seniors - Neglected, Used (Abused?) by Family
When Kids Refuse to Grow Up
With an increasing number of baby-boomers reaching their retirement age, every now an then I get another glimpse at this strange phenomenon of the way they get treated by their, now grownup offspring -- something that I immediately called "secondary umbilical cord".
Fancy name, I know, but quite descriptive of the younger generation sometimes being less than fair to their aging folks while acting as if attached to them by their constant needs. Really, it's a kind of irregular -- to use the mildest expression -- to see so many old-timers catering to the needs of the young ones, instead of the opposite being the case.
Getting Some Rest at Work
Indeed, one would think that retirement should be the time to slow down, and -- as much as declining health allows it -- enjoy some of the fruits of those working years. Maybe with a hobby, a trip, a membership in a club with activities suitable for their age. Or, even if none of the above, just to have some peaceful time to sip on their morning tea and watch their favorite TV show, if not to have a nice walk in a park and feed squirrels.
So, here is this acquaintance of ours overdue for her retirement, but still working part time at a bank. Why? Does she need that extra money? No, but the bank is the place where she gets some time off from babysitting her multiple grandchildren that just get dumped on her, because the parents are making up all kinds of reasons to have "some free hands from children". Maybe a trip, a birthday party, a concert, a wedding, a movie -- or just "pms-ing and needing some peace".
Making Themselves Helpful -- or Abused?
There is no question of how much that poor lady loves her grandchildren. Of course she is crazy about each one of them, and she likes to be helpful. It's only that she is being taken for granted, which has turned into her regular chores, not a favor.
She actually confided to my wife how her kids don't know about her having taken an extra day off at the bank so that she could have some peace at home.
Or, here we have another example among our acquaintances, with this aging lady who has made it a family tradition to cook a gourmet Sunday dinner for her sons and a daughter with their respective families.
They are well educated people, and I am talking doctors and a lawyer, so for some mysterious reasons they are failing to notice how that tradition has been long overdue to stop because their mother is now in her early eighties. It simply beats me that they are waiting to be told that maybe it's time for them to start reversing the tradition by inviting their old mother for Sunday dinners.
A Secret Fear
Some of you may be wondering why those ladies don't simply tell their kids that they are not physically up to those activities anymore? Well, you see, there is this nagging worry on their mind that, if they stop being useful to them, it could be a beginning of their being neglected.
It's that well familiar feeling of "being useless", which started right after that farewell party at their workplace. The memories are still so vivid, with everyone looking so friendly and lovable, even that nasty boss and those couple of cold co-workers, now showering them with wishes for a joyful retirement.
And then, all being followed by that not easy to forget moment, as they walked to their parked car carrying those flowers and gifts, with that question creeping up their spine : "What now?" Not so many people step into retirement having some hobbies to fill their time with, and instead of being given a chance to come up with some, they get "employed" by their young family.
The thought of being useless to anybody may be unbearable, and that's why they would rather silently suffer with a smile and continue -- until they have to be placed into an old age home, not to be a burden to anyone.
Those Lucky Oriental Old-Timers
A rumor has it, or is it an established fact that on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and generally in that Far east part of the world there is a great number of centenarians -- apparently due to their exceptionally esteemed status in the society.
Those folks are valued for their knowledge, life experience and wisdom, and that feeling of being needed and respected enough not to be "used" gives them a purpose to live. Unlike the seniors in this western, materialistically oriented culture where they are merely a burden to the society and the budget with their increased medical needs.
With a Compassionate Heart
My wife and I live in an apartment building across from an old folks home. From a distance that wouldn't make me a "peeping tom", every Christmas I can see those poorly decorated windows with only a couple of colored lights blinking.
Then I ask myself, how many of those poor souls feel lonely on that day, with their young ones having a good time somewhere and "trying to squeeze in" an hour or so for visiting them between all those parties.
With an old fantasy of mine of becoming able some day to "heal people at distance", I send these old-timers my good vibes with all wishes for a more dignifying life in the year to come.
A Distance Healer That Never Was
This fantasy of mine might have started in those early years of my childhood, while I was watching my polio-stricken aunt down on her four, grabbing her foot and pushing it forward for her next "step".
Born during the WW2 in the basement of that old building, I spent my first five years living with my grandma and her daughter, my handicapped aunt Barbara. Those two angels in form of human beings did everything for my soul and my body that my parents somehow were not completely fit for.
In my seven decades of life I have never met a person who loved life as my aunt Barbara did. And when I emigrated, her letters were the dearest to me. Those letters written with a hand that was slightly deformed from being used for walking; that handwriting of someone who never went to school and learned to write and read on her own -- to become a passionate reader of so many novels.
A Letter that Stayed Tattooed on My Heart
There was one letter in particular in which my auntie said: "If I had ever been granted a wish, it would have been for living the same life all over, regardless of my disability, and that scarcity of food, and uncertainties of the war years."
Through all turbulent initial times of my emigration, and many times after, that letter was like an eternal inspiration to me -- and she would have been proud of my handling it all with a smile of someone who got inspired to love life unconditionally.
She also remembered all those occasions when I used to carry her like a child down those many stairs to her invalid tricycle as a teenager, and pushed it for hours to a wood where she enjoyed the aroma of the nature and those birds happily singing.
She even remembered those forest flowers that I picked for her, and which would always perish in her hand on the long way home.
Doctors of those times predicted she wouldn't live past her thirties. She died at the age of ninety four, probably with a smile on her sweet, old face.
That enormously added to my newly acquired conviction through my "mind-over-body" studies -- that our attitudes, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs determine the level of our vitality and longevity more than anything else we may do in that direction.
We might see it as funny that, after listening to quite a few motivational speakers, none of them ever sounded as convincing as my handicapped aunt -- because unlike their success, money, and popularity, which surely contributed to their "high spirits", my aunt had nothing of the kind but sheer will to live.
A Story Deserving to Be Told to Many
That woman has from ever been, and forever will be a cherished example of a gigantic will to live -- which prevented me to ever complain about life. My aunt loved me a lot, and I know she said many nice things about me; so here is my chance to let the legacy of that brave woman go around the world to anybody with enough of a heart to share my deep respect for old folks with a spirit.
Well, I never developed those "healing powers" to heal my aunt Barbara, but as I am looking at those flickering colored lights at every Christmas, my heart is just the same persisting with that fantasy, with a hope that my good wishes would somehow reach those lonely souls across the road.
No Seasonal Hugs
Maybe there is a part of me that deep down disliked the fact that my little brother and I ended up in hands of those two good women exhausted by the war--beside two young and strong parents.
And maybe the memory of all that gave me the inspiration to write this article, questioning the justifiable motivation of all those young parents who may not have enough heart to appreciate their old folks.
One thing is sure though -- the story was not inspired by the way we have been treated by our grownup kids, now in their late forties. Long time ago, I told them not to bother giving us a hug or a kiss if it's only to happen on Valentine's Day, our birthdays, and at Christmas -- when it's prescribed by social norms of decency.
They remembered, even though I don't think I ever had to tell them that, judging by the way they turned out -- loving and respectful. So, there is a lot of those bear hugs in our family. Since they live in the same building in their own apartments, we even hug when we meet down at the parking lot. Well, they were raised seeing only love and harmony at their home, and that must have done it.
So, there is nothing like a "seasonal love" in this family, and that makes this age of mine additionally beautiful.