While growing up all I thought of was what I will do when I reach a particular age. At the age of 3 I thought of 13 and at the age of 13 I thought of 23. I desired to have my own cellphone with a passcode when I was 16. I wanted to have my driving license when I was 18. I wanted to have my own vehicle by the time I was in college. It was always about me and about what I wanted, about what it all meant to me and how growing up will affect me. Not once did I think of how it would affect my family, my parents and those who cared for me as a child.
I never realised that my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles or all other relatives were growing old. I did not pay attention to their aging until one day I lost my grandmother to death. She was followed by one of my old relatives. News of such tragedy kept coming in. That’s when I realised time won’t stop for anyone. That if I am growing up, my parents are growing old and my grandfather is growing older.
While I was turning into a young confident woman, they were becoming old and insecure. I had endless dreams and desires while their dreams were fulfilled and desires were few while their expectations towards me were increasing. I had abundance of energy and passion coursing through my blood while their reserves of energy were running out. I could climb stairs, walk miles, carry luggage without much of an effort but they could hardly carry themselves. I started noticing the small changes they made in their lives and daily routines. They were precautious about everything. They would not eat particular food because it upset their stomachs. They would complaint about various pains. And most importantly, they started taking afternoon naps and supplements for vitamins.
So when I was growing up to become an independent and responsible person, I came across signs that showed me why it was necessary for me to become exactly that. I looked after them when they were ill. I let them sleep one extra hour. I made them tea. I tried to give them what they had given me all these years. And I accepted and endured all their whims, tantrums and insecurities patiently. Just like they did. I realised that I have reservoir of energy which I have to share with my parents so they can go about their life with little less efforts. I realised that what they taught me as a kid, I have to teach the same thing back to them to keep them confident. I realised I have to become them.
This is the way of life. You do not only grow up to do your own things but you grow up to take care of those who are growing old and fragile. So many of us forget this. We are so lost in building our lives and careers that we do not realise that our parents, grandparents, relatives and friends are also growing older and going through life changes. This is the reason why Indian Culture promotes Joint Families. The adult can take care of the infant and the old so later when the infant is an adult he/she can look after the now old adults.
Growing up and growing old is a simultaneous process. You are growing at all stages. You only stop growing the day you take your last breath. But growing up is different at all four stages- infant, youth, adult and oldage. And hence, all the four stages need to be there for each other so we can grow up and grow old gracefully and in good health by passing on the wisdom of life to the next in line.