Sunday Afternoon Rocking

"A Thought about the Generations"

Afternoon All,

"Comes a time when life is turned right around backwards". Those were the words my papa used to say, and while they somewhat confused me at one time, I have now lived long enough to know exactly what he meant by them. I imagine many of the rest of you have as well.

I stand now between two generations...and feel pulled in two directions by the needs of both, and well I know that many of you have lived these days. These days I am weary a good deal of the time. Not so much physically, as perhaps emotionally. I am watching as one side of my house and one generation literally is slipping beyond my reach. I am powerless to stop the inevitable, and feel very insufficient to meet the needs for making it smoother for my elders. I am the last to bear that family name, and the only one left in my generation. There were only two of us to begin with. There are three elders in the previous generation, all without children, aged 78 through 89. I had just survived the crisises associated with raising five children all teenagers at one time, and thought surely I could then cope with anything at all....but the pain of watching the frustrations and tribulations of elders has been quite an experience. It is frustrating to see so much need and be able to do so little really. It hurts to see folk that you well remember in younger more vibrant years showing the effects of aging, and want to do something, anything to somehow ease it for them...but of course a human limit to what one can do. It is a battle to keep oneself from "crying in the soup" and instead staying strong enough to cope. And yet, as with all things, it has been a school...with lessons to be learned.

Never had I grasped so fully a lesson as this past weekend. There are those moments in time, small occurences perhaps, but precious sweet moments that are snapped forever in your memory like a beloved photo...and one of those moments happened just a few days before Christmas this year. One of my aunts has been losing her memory for a good long while, and for the most part by that time she remembered very little either long-term or short-term, but she took great pleasure "in the moment". That was enough, one can live in the moment quite well, and enjoy and be enjoyed. I took her to out to eat over the holidays and as we stood in the gift shop of this restaurant, and Christmas carols poured cheerfully from the speakers overhead, her eyes lit up and began to shine. She grasped my hands and began to swing them. Her feet began to shuffle in time to the music, and she cried, "Oh! I feel Christmas in my bones!!" I laughed and she laughed and together we made quite a sight, two generations swinging their hands and shuffling to the tune of Jingle Bells in a restaurant, paying no mind nor caring who might be watching or what they might think. On Christmas day she fell and she has not walked since. Gradually her condition has gotten worse, until today she lays curled in a bed, lacking much response at all to life, and fed with a tube. It hurts. And so one day I whispered sweet nothings in this aunt's ear, attempted feebly to comfort her frail sisters, moaned at my inadequacies, and the next I saw a totally different side of life...a contrast that literally set me back, and made me truly think some thoughts I had been needing to think.

I met my daughter and son-in-law for their birthday dinner. They are young, full of life, in love, laughing, cutting up, greeting every new day as an adventure, rolling with the disappointments life can bring even the young and then standing tall with a smile on their faces sure it will all work out, full of health and vitality. They are a joy to watch, and it is a bit of awe I feel as I see them enjoying life to its fullest, bursting with a vibrancy that I wonder if I ever even felt myself, but know I must have for I can remember that same aunt bursting with the same vitality and zest for living. I thought how wonderful it was that the world is peopled with youth that can truly milk every ounce of zest and joyful energy from life...and I thought what a shame it is that no matter how mature youth is, truly they have no basis for appreciating the spot in life they are at.

It came to me as I watched them, such a contrast to what I had just been dealing with, the words my papa used to speak. "Life is turned right around backwards". And maybe that is so. About the time one learns to fully appreciate life, and health...about the time one begins to feel comfortable and mature in action and words...about the time one could not only grasp life with the zest of the young (if they felt well enough) but also appreciate what he or she had....well, it is another story.

And I thought about those of us who are in a sense a bridge between those generations...and that maybe I had been very wrong in my feelings about it. Perhaps more than any other we can grasp exactly what the essence of each generation really is, empathize most completely with each, appreciate most truly the contributions of both generations to the world. And I thought that it might be possible for us, and us only, to pull a bit of that zestful vitality of youth over the bridge into the lives of our elders, and a bit of that appreciation for the "summer of life" over the bridge into the lives of our children. And I thought...rather than feeling torn between the needs of two generations...what a wonderful spot in life it is to be in the middle! If life is truly, as my papa used to say, "turned around right backwards", well the middle is always the middle...and always in touch with both ends of life. I can think of no better place to truly understand, to truly give back to the world, or to truly appreciate what life is all about.

just a thought,

Copyright ©2000JanPhilpot


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Thanks, jan)