She doesn't play video games. Doesn't listen to the same music. Barely speaks the same language. I bet she drinks coffee though... wouldn't mind sitting through a show.
The word "burden" gets thrown around a lot but I'm not sure who's carrying it. What's it like to be abandoned by the ones you love the most? How do you explain the emptiness that grows where love and attention were so carefully sown. Who drove this wedge between mother and daughter, father and son? You shouldn't need social media to say you love someone.
Seems to me the parents did their job and raised us; now what are we gonna do for them? Anything? Anything at all? Can we stomach another game of cards and meandering conversation about other people long gone. So what if the conversation doesn't go anywhere.
Young people are so fixated on specific results they don't realize all they have to do is show up. Just show up.
Is it some cardinal sin to listen patiently to the same story as we sip bitter tea and drift toward thinking when the staff last replaced the moth balls in the modest dresser drawers. So you have to rub the bright green shadows from your eyes after staring at the door for long minutes. At least you get to go home to your own bed tonight and shouldn't you consider, if even for a moment, whether anyone will come sit by your side someday.
Do you read books anymore? Especially the books written by old mummies buried deep in foreign lands. Have you ever picked up a book in an antique store and discovered it's full of pressed flowers that some little girl a hundred years earlier placed carefully one at a time as she re-read her favourite stories. What did it feel like to smell the perfume dancing with regret... do you notice the dust or the memory it covers?
Books are more than just words on a page.
Elders are libraries. Slow, fragile, ... vulnerable... beautiful expressions of something real. Maybe not famous. No-one remembers that little girl and her flowers beyond you and me... but she was here and she left a little bit of herself behind for us to discover. She mattered. Though you've never met her, you know her story now and can never forget it. You're asking who was she? What was her name... and I could tell you... but I won't. You have a different name you need to think about.
The past matters in ways you may not appreciate right now, but consider the loss of opportunity if nothing else. The opportunity to understand where you come from and how you got here. To know those who came before you intimately. To sit on the knee of your grandfather as he tells you war stories. Romanticizing that haunted look on his face when he stares into the distance muttering the names of fallen brothers.
You're alive because of your ancestors; their sacrifices. Isn't that enough relevance? Maybe you're just not seeing what's been right in front of you all along. Protection. Concern. Your own significance established through years of investment. You used to be somebody. Not just some other kid, but your parent's kid. You mattered because of them and who they were in their community while you were being raised.
Were they respected? Were they an active part of the community? Were they there when they were needed? That time the neighbour's house burnt down and the whole town came together to rebuild it. Were you there or was it your dad in the thick red and black flannel trying to remember his carpentry days with his own father.
You are your father...
"Keep your eyes on it!", he echos through time. You slip, his strong grip crushes your fingers as he quickly snatches your hand from its path toward the circular saw blade. Do you remember how much it hurt? How could he be so inconsiderate, you think as you lick chocolate from your finger tips. The spouse is complaining again about the dirty game pad you toss on the couch.
Maybe you want to help your parents. You want to hang out with them more, but just can't face the decline. That dreamy look in the eye that says dad isn't really here anymore. That day grandma sat down in her new wheel chair and never got up again. But face it we must. Our elders are more than old desktop shortcuts we don't click anymore.
Would you believe me if I told you they're a sort of mirror; our parents. That they reflect something important about us and someday we too will understand why it matters if you look like your mother. That you yell like your father... fish like your grandfather and how desperately you'll want to fill coffee cups for grandma's afternoon guests just to see her smile one more time.
Lost in today's struggles we forget what's been done for us already. Maybe we assume too much about our own part in things. Misappraise our virtues because we've always seen ourselves reflected in rosy eyes full of pride and affection.
The source of all value is gratitude. It's not getting old that diminishes the elderly. It's the loss of appreciation by those who fail to see any relevance in exchanging even a few precious moments. They miss the chance to show their own how it's done.
Connect that love with attention to express the appreciation necessary to fight the diminishment of our elders. Treat them like an antique instead of old junk and you may discover from the other side that aging is a cultivation opportunity reserved for you by nature.
If you could look forward to friends and family visiting you and thinking about you and remembering you then you know... absolutely know... that your life was a blessing you shared with many good people. That's what your attention does for someone. Don't keep that to yourself.