The following is meant to be both touching and funny. Eliciting both laughter and tears in the same article is a difficult task, but I’m hoping I pulled it off.
Last week I had the great fortune of spending much of my holiday break with my grandparents. They live in Florida and had not been up for Christmas since 1993, so seeing them over the holidays was a big deal. My grandmother and grandfather are also 86 and 89, respectively, and therefore this was probably going to be the last trip they made up north for the holidays, if ever again. One of the things that really struck me about spending so much time with them (alongside my two children) was how similar their needs and behaviors were to that of babies. It is often said that those at the beginning and end of their lives share many similarities, and I would like to share some of them with you:
- Both wear diapers. Obvious to some, perhaps, but not to me until a week ago.
- Both do not hear you when you call them for dinner.
- Walking requires much assistance.
- Both throw a fit if they don’t get their way.
- Liquids are best drank through a straw and food best eaten in small bites, to avoid spilling or choking.
- Both sleep. A lot.
- Getting them around (whether via stroller or wheelchair) requires much skill when going up and down stairs.
- Both allow you to be apart of the “those requiring extra assistance” crowd, when boarding a plane.
- Getting out the door and into/out of the car takes FOREVER.
- Both rely on you for everything – from making them toast to pouring their orange juice.
The circle of life is very interesting, indeed. We enter the world naked and unashamed of it, ready for the world to teach us all that it has to offer. We rely on our caregivers – parents, nannies, or grandparents to care for us, protect us, and show us the ways of the world. As we age and enter our 50s and 60s, we become part of the “sandwich generation”, and we suddenly become needed by both our children and our parents. Our children certainly don’t have the same needs as they once did, but they still need us as a support system, for advice, direction, and guidance. And suddenly our parents need us as well: those strong, seemingly invincible giants called “mom” and “dad” now need us to care for them, and can do virtually nothing to care for and guide us as they once did. And then as we enter the final years of our lives, we enter them naked once again, though not in the literal sense. Naked in our vulnerability. Our inability to care for ourselves necessitates the disrobing of our pride, leaving us vulnerable and naked before our children, children who once looked up to us, and we hope they will not be ashamed of who we now are and what we have become.
I, for one, am not ashamed of my grandparents at all. To me, they are not a burden, as they often tell me they fear. On the contrary, they are wise and funny and beautiful people who have lived through so much, and whose memories of their youth are better than my memory of what I did yesterday. I cherish every moment that I spend with them, and I can only hope that when I reach my final years, that my children and grandchildren will feel the same about me.
Four generations. My grandmother, mother, daughter and I.