Feb7,2017: This is not about food, travel, or fitness. But I am a writer, and I write what I know. And this much I know as a writer, when feelings or thoughts aren’t expressed it weighs heavy on my heart. People joyfully post photos of cats, of bacon, of eggs (especially egg porn of breaking the yolk into a big pool of yellow gooey mess), and their babies and children’s milestones on Facebook and Instagram.
But one thing I realize we rarely talk about aging. We hesitate to talk about our growing number of white hair strands, aching joints, or wrinkles. But more than that, we hesitate to talk about our aging parents. Turning 40 was both a milestone for me, but it was also a wake-up call. I realized I was getting older. But I also could no longer ignore how my parents were getting older, too.
You see I’m the youngest of five children. My father had always been my hero. He knew the answers to all my why’s and what’s. He had always been strong and wise. I must have been eight years old when our family first visited New York City. I was so tired from the long walks all over the city, I begged him to carry me by the time we reached the empire state building. No matter how tall and heavy I was then, I think he did. He tirelessly drove us one summer from New Jersey to Florida to bring us to Disney World. There was no other adult to share in the driving duties, but he soldiered on along the way with endless McDonald’s stops to fortify his brood.
Now in my forties, my dad is in his late 70’s. He still is my hero and the wise man I look up to in my life. The difference is he now uses a cane and has his share of aches and pains. Many months ago, we started to have weekly dates. It was unspoken. No one asked, but I decided to accompany him to mass every Sunday morning. My mom is a lector in church and dad is a retired Eucharist Minister. After 70, the church requires Eucharist ministers to retire. Every Sunday, I meet him in church and sit beside him at mass. I walk next to him, helping him with every step. I give him my arm as support. With a strong grip, he holds on. Maybe unconsciously, my friend Ned inspired me. He had morning dates with his mom while she was alive. Every single Sunday, he would bring her to mass. She would have fried Galunggong (Big Bellied Round Scad) ready for him for lunch, knowing this was his favorite. I thought that was so sweet.
When we were young, we needed our parents for everything from burping us to teaching us how to walk. But as they get older, they rely on us. I find myself teaching my parents how to use their iphones or gadgets. But my tech-savy dad always manages to have a trick on his sleeve showing me apps, or articles he would find on the web. Things we take for granted like taking an escalator, can now be a challenge for them. I find myself standing up for my elderly parents. I scold able-bodied people in the mall refuse to get off the lift to let these seniors ride.
The other day, I saw a classmate post a baby photo of her now daughter in first grade, adding the hashtag #slowdowntime. But I am single. I am in my forties, and I don’t think I will have children. I could not really relate to her hashtag. But four days ago, I rushed to the hospital when my father fell and hit his head. Thankfully, it was a wooden floor. The doctors had to stop the bleeding, stitch his head and do several tests. But he is ok. He now has bandage protruding from his forehead, and we call him a unicorn. When I asked my friends for prayers, my friend Rodney told me his dad fell too recently. Then came other friends’ stories of their parents’ illnesses and accidents. The truth is aging is real. Our parents are now senior citizens.
My dad has been discharged from the hospital and I have returned home. But somehow I am still a zombie. Perhaps, I am slow to accept that my parents are really getting older. Yes, we all are aging at the same rate, one minute at a time. We are not aging at the same rate though. I have been having conversations with myself the past few days. While cooking myself a meal the other day, as I cracked an egg and added it to my leftovers. I realized an egg makes everything better. They say bacon makes everything better or if you put an egg on it, it gets better. But this time those fixes won’t work. I then realized what I wished was exactly the sentiment of my classmate, #slowdowntime.
The thing is we can’t slow down time. The best we can do is to be present for each other. We can make memories with each other. It need not be big grand gestures, like going to Disney World. Often times, it is simple things. It can be in the hospital sharing a cup of coffee in the morning or laughing till you’re crying in the hospital bathroom.
So today, I tell you hug your mom and dad. Tell them you love them. Sit with them at mass. Have weekly dates. Give them your arm to hold on to, when they need stable support. Call them. Visit them. These are more reminders to myself, than to you actually. I get lost in my own world and in my own concerns. I remind myself to guard my moments and to be more mindful of how I spend them. I hope you do, too. Let’s make the moments count.
Hugs (and please give your parents a hug from me),
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Image courtesy of Lusi