We busily live our lives, and then one day the reality of our parents’ aging becomes all too real–whether that is due to a crisis of some sort or a gradual adjustment of schedules and responsibilities to accommodate their needs.
Our mind may be making these accommodations because they are required, but I think our hearts haven’t caught up and accepted the simple fact that our parents have aged, until we have to. After all, they seem to be the same, right? And with that comes the unwelcome realization that so have we!
When we begin our journey as adults, especially when we complete our education, begin a career, create a home and family, we focus on working toward what comes next. Our own mortality is not part of our everyday thinking, unless we have a crisis that stops us short and we have to face it. I don’t think it occurs to us, except perhaps occasionally, that we are going to one day be old. It’s hard to imagine what retirement will look like when we are just starting out. It seems so far off in the future.
Having nearly reached the typical age of retirement, I have to say that the years have indeed gone by quickly. But also having just gone through an experience with my parents that showed me just how fragile life is, I am beginning to look at life a bit differently. I had already set in motion changes that allow me to spend quality time with my little grandson, which is something that is very important to me. A recent move has made it easier to spend more time with my children as well, and to provide several unexpected months of support to my parents.
In all of this, though, is the knowledge that I am no longer young, as hard as it is to admit, because I do not see myself as “old” yet, and hope I never do. But, that is the reality. You would think I would have noticed sooner – my joints and muscles have been trying to tell me this for years, I suspect. So having admitted, if not fully accepted, that reality, the question becomes then “what do I do with that knowledge?”
Like many others, I am still working on that answer! However, I have learned to enjoy each day, be more aware of what I am doing and why, spend quality time with those whom I love, and understand that while my work is important to me and others, it does not define me. I still dream of the things I want to accomplish, and hope to continue to do that for as long as I can. I have places to explore, experiences I want to share with others, and new things I want to try. The difference is that I am ready to do those things now instead of waiting until “later.” Because I am closer to “later” than I was when I began my adult journey, I am trying to make every day, week, month and year have meaning to me and those around me.