Going backwards just doesn’t seem to be an option for me anymore. I can’t even go back to get something I thought of a few moments ago …. write it down right now or it’s gone. Looking over my shoulder to see what’s behind me seems to be wrong in some way.
Certainly, my life is not an example of always moving forward. I have stumbled mightily under the weight of burdens, self-imposed and otherwise. Now, as I stretch out my legs and stand taller, I have a better view of my life, I can see the wandering of my past from this new vantage.
Feeling almost brand new at 62, I have this surging energy in my feet to move. Being still, not advancing on all fronts seems a mistake. I have written about feeling that time is short, and this is one of the ways that it manifests.
My stepfather’s health is failing. It is a gentle failing, matching his soft and beautiful spirit, and I am grateful for that. He is 85. As I was hiking today, I was thinking about his situation and that of so many others whose path is not gentle, maybe in the fog of memory loss. I began to think of what my physical decline will look like, and the threat of the fog. I hope I go out that final doorway at a full run, sweating, panting and exhausted. Not even a glimpse in my rear view mirror.
Is this something we are doing with our elderly, trying to make them think backwards? Maybe they are tired of trying to remember, of bringing everything along with them. Maybe they just need to pack a lighter load so they can continue to move forwards.
I consider that it might be us, the hangers on, the offspring that don’t want to be forgotten, that ask the elderly to carry the past so that we can feel some sort of relevance, largely because we don’t create a meaningful one of our own. Have the elderly been caged long enough, to roles and duties and obligations that no longer sustain them? Their “new frontiers” aren’t new at all; they are visitations to the past.
Maybe we have hitched our ill-conceived needs to them for too long, and they have been reduced to the role of the family’s story-keeper, a placeholder in our story.
Imagine if we nourished our children so that they became themselves fully, not reincarnations of ourselves, little versions of Mommy and Daddy. Imagine that we encouraged our children to discover themselves instead of us. As they grew into young adults, they would continue with the discoveries of their own self, full with the knowledge that they were supported and loved and nurtured, but also were autonomous members of society. As they made choices about their life, we as parents, hopefully raised in the same spirit, would continue to write our life’s story, NOT as caretakers of the young or the old, but as autonomous choice-makers, moving forward.
Maybe if we carry less burdens, we will be less burdensome.