Gotta love ‘em. Trudging bravely on with their walkers and their canes, they have an air about them that is infectious. Laughter comes easily, as they navigate their fragile lives, grateful for their existence in a world that either treads gently around them or forges its way through. Never knowing if they are going to be treated with disdain or gentleness, they continue on. I find their courage contagious.
My Old Folk have been staying with me for the last week. They are both in their early eighties but their minds think otherwise, well my dad’s does anyway. My mum suffers from dementia and is continuously reminding me, and the stranger on the bus, that she is over eighty. It’s priceless and I wonder if this pride that comes out, this fascination, isn’t present in all elderly people and that as a collective, they don’t all perceive themselves as having arrived at an age that demands notice on their ability to have survived for as long as they have. There is a fascination, I believe, towards this. They can’t quite believe that they are at an age they once thought was very old.
I’m reminded, everyday, that they were once children, adolescents, new parents, pioneers and middle-aged. They’ve lived in a world that developed the first bottle with a screw top to the Apple Wallet and they’ve handled it all with grace. Difficult grace, sometimes, but grace nonetheless. Yesterday, my Old Folk went to church; afterwards, they decided to walk through Beacon Hill Park to sit on a bench and watch the ducks and the turtles on the pond. We were to meet at a local pub at 2 pm and although they had more than an hour to pass, they preferred this rather than coming home first. I didn’t understand my father’s reasoning but it soon became apparent that this might be the last time they would have the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company in such a beautiful and nostalgic place. They passed the time walking, with their canes, from bench to bench. This endeavour absolutely nourished them. And I totally understand why!
I feel we need to highly respect our Old Folk; after all, they have lived before us, witnessing and experiencing changes in the world and within themselves. They have knowledge to share and their stories are fascinating if we only listen. I, personally, appreciate their wisdom and although they weren’t the perfect parents and I haven’t always appreciated their ways, they did their best and isn’t that all any of us can do? We, ourselves, have made tremendous mistakes with our kids and have hopefully learned, as we have aged ourselves, about our own weaknesses and imperfections. My Old Folk have taught me lessons through their mistakes and achievements and I have passed some of this onto the little people who have shaped my own life. We will continue to proceed with this self-awareness and will change also, one day becoming, hopefully, Old Folk ourselves, doing the best we can in an ever-changing world that we may not always be able to understand but trudging on regardless, finding the little things like the colours of the world, and discovering new understandings of what it is REALLY like to become old.
So, here’s a big THANK YOU to everyone who is, or are becoming, Old Folk. You’re the best you can be and that is good enough!
peace balance empathy