How To Make Peace With Your Parents Becoming Old And Infirm

The title of this post was not my idea, nor was this topic. This above was what someone I had known for many years through my blog had requested I do a podcast on. While I do love people asking me my opinions on the Kashmir files or Ajinkya Rahane as an opener for KKR, what really moves me is when people want to know my thoughts things that are personally important to them. I thought of doing this as a podcast on video, but I was worried I might not be able to get through it without getting moist-eyed.

So let me write it down, if for no other reason, that you cannot see my face.

How do I make peace with my parents becoming old and infirm? For a start, I do not think of my parents as old and infirm. I just cannot. In my mind’s eye they are frozen in time, as they once were, firm and healthy and commanding and “always there”. When I dream, and I often dream of my childhood, they are as I remember them as a child, because the thing with children, and that’s a good and a bad thing both, is that they do not see their parents as human beings but as parents.

And people age, parents don’t.

Which is why every time I see them in real life, after a while, I am shocked for a fraction of a second, as the algorithms in my brain jitter, trying to reconcile my mental model of them with reality. And as I become older, and they too, the inevitability of our time with each other decreasing hits me, from time to time, often just as I am awake, in that twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep, when the people in the dream, young and healthy, fade away into the knowledge of their present, and the inevitability seeps through, of that journey home I will have to make one day on the news, and yes, I too struggle, struggle like my friend, to make peace with my parents becoming old and infirm and then that which I know will follow.

The thing that I tell myself, when I have these thoughts is that there are only two ways this can play out—either my parents deal with my mortality or I deal with theirs. Of course, as a parent myself, I know that the former would break my parents, which leaves only one option left, and that is how it should be, in the best of scenarios.

After telling myself that, I try to not fight as much with my parents as I used to, not that I am always particularly successful (after all it’s difficult to get rid of old habits), because I want the time we have left to be the best as it can be.

When we are younger, time is always infinite, and there is always a next time. Now as each day passes by, you know there might not be, and so you have to compensate for it.

The last thing I do to cope is to tell my parents that I love them. I know it may sound trite, but if counting the likes from strangers makes you feel good, why don’t you think that your words will have at least that effect on your own parents? For words are important, and they don’t have to particularly profound or poetic, and your parents saw you shitting in your diapers, so with them, you don’t have to be sophisticated, original or clever.

Which leads me to finish with something my daughter says to me. A few years ago, I used to pick her and hold her up and then she would flap around like a bird. I can still pick her up, but I cannot hold her up like that for that long, above my head, floating in the air, and I tell her “Bubu is getting old”, to which tells me “But when Bubu gets older, he will get stronger and more powerful.”

Now, most likely it’s just a thing she says because it’s fun to say. She is, after all, nine years old.

But I think, and this may certainly me over-interpreting, that she is trying to tell me something else, something deeper, that the power that makes me hold her up is love, which will increase with moments and memories of togetherness; that a parent’s true strength is not in their arms and back and knees, but in their hearts, a magical place that is beyond the reach of age, infirmity and death.


11 thoughts on “How To Make Peace With Your Parents Becoming Old And Infirm

  1. you couldnt write without moist eyes ,, and i couldn’t read without eyes getting moist. those born in 80s are pretty much at same stage of life. we are living away from parents trying to make a life for our kids. and many things i dont want to type.. i will start bawling.

  2. Very nice post, Dear GreatBong! I love that title Greatbong. Your posts are always true to reality- earthly and humanly. I admire and agree with your thoughts/feelings. Your baby is wonderful. I like that quote from her heart.

  3. Love and respect for this great post.

  4. Rajat Chakravarty April 12, 2022 — 12:03 pm

    A rare occasion for a Greatbong post when a calm pause lingers deep within, while the world around moves on as ever. Very difficult way to make peace, negating one way from the possible two. I can relate so much with this predicament.

  5. Earnest and heart touching !

  6. Beautiful and evocative! Thanks for writing this, truly!

  7. So very true. I am that 80’s kid who has lost both parents. Couldn’t prevent that lump build up in my throat as I read through the lines. Feel unlucky that I could not spend more time with my “old ones”. My kid has seen one of his grandparents go away and so knows somewhere deep inside that his parents would too some day, and he can’t hide his anguish thinking of that. Coming back, this is good work indeed!

  8. I appreciate the deep emotion that made you write this post.

    But… There is a big ‘But’ concerning old parents—particularly those who are actually residing with the ageing/ailing parents on a day-to-day basis and providing support.

    Things are not rosy in those situations at all. It is not for nothing that Ramayan/Mahabharat recommended Vanprastha.

  9. Gaurav Dey Purkayastha April 13, 2022 — 4:27 pm

    I am in the exact same situation, dear Greatbong …. and so are some of our friends, one of whom, I believe, has commented here. We children of the sixties saw our parents in a distinctly different light from that by today’s children … however, what remains, and will always remain, transcending the generation gap is the affection the aged feels for the young… as they say in Bengali, “sneha soda nimnogami” (Affection always descends from above).

    Thanks for your post after a very, very long time … in the year that passed by God knows how many times I checked this page, like the dog at the railway station.

    1. Gaurav Dey Purkayastha May 17, 2022 — 5:03 pm

      Exactly a month after I typed the comment above, my mother passed away last week at a hospital in Guwahati. She had suffered a lot since her stroke last year.

      The overwhelming feeling, other than pain, is regret, regret that I couldn’t – or really, didn’t – spend more time with her, which is really all that she wanted from us, her children. Every day I called her via video call, it was that question – “Kobe aire” ( kobe aschis – when are you coming)? – from that broken, frail body struggling to remain conscious. And I always used to reply, “In a month or two”. So I did make it to her bedside at the hospital, but then by then she was unconscious. I don’t know if by some supreme act of mercy of the universe she was able to comprehend that her two sons had made it to her bedside during her final days. It’d be little consolation, though, for the lost opportunities to have spent time with her – regrets are of no use, once they’re gone they’re gone and you have to reconcile to this fact as far as material existence goes. Science provides no solace, the only relief is from one’s beliefs, if they exist, in religion / beliefs / spirituality – the much maligned opium of the masses as a coping mechanism.

      And going by my recent experiences, since people – all of us – are bound to become memories at some stage, I would suggest keeping as many memories as possible in the form of photographs and videos. Especially videos with speech. For if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.

  10. The chasm between wondering how you will ever live without your parents and having actually lived decades without them….the cycle of life and the role reversal. To be a ‘thinking’ person is a grand either…to be a ‘ feeling’ person is supreme. It is the heart that is most important. Kudos.

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