I stand at attention in the LRT train, and as passengers move in and out of the midday rush, I realize that my parents have gotten old.
By old, I don’t mean that they have become the iconic image of grey-haired, feeble-looking, hunched-up individuals tapping around in their canes to find their way around. They may yet come to that, but I digress. When I mean “old,” I mean that my parents have actually matured gracefully, and that the years have crept up on them, almost unnoticed; and the years have been good.
Almost-senior and Senior enjoying an evening meal.
When had I last truly looked at my parents? It seemed only a few years ago that they were young and building their lives, reaching for career goals, and in the process rearing us up to prepare us for our own lives. It seems not so long ago that there were school meetings, and uniforms, and tuition and play rehearsal, entrance exams and graduations. It seems that the years have not only crept up on my parents, they have also crept up on me.
When I mean “old,” I mean that the past thirty years have been productive, fulfilling years for my parents. Time has patiently added (more than) a few pounds on their frames and interesting lines on their faces, but this is Time’s way of rewarding them for the life they have lived thus far. They days have piled up slowly and the daily grind has moved from the hectic pace of building their own careers, to making money to support three children, to the almost snail-paced trickle of the warm golden years: slow mornings and even slower afternoons and evenings pondering plans, celebrating adult milestones, or just sitting down for a chat. The past few decades have seen them birth three children and launch each child into the world and their children’s own careers. All things considered, my parents themselves have been quite successful in life.
Lighter moments (karaoke) with their now-adult kids
Neither dad, nor mom, have long-term, debilitating illnesses. Sure, there are some health concerns, but nothing a little control and moderation cannot reverse. They have enough food on their plates, they have gone places, they have made lifelong friendships with good people. They have us. They have each other. Their faces still show the glow of health, the grey streaks of acquired wisdom, and more importantly, the reflection of joy; because looking back, life has been good. It was definitely not a bed of roses, and yet life has still been very gracious to them.
Is sixty old?
Is this what it means to grow old? If it is, then I’d like to grow old, too, someday. I’d like to wake up in the morning and know that I have reared up children who are able to find their way in the world. I’d like to be able to take afternoon walks with such slow contentment, knowing that all is well and as it should be. I’d like to be able to spend time making good food and share meals on the table…without the rush of everyday concerns. I’d like to be able to look back and say, “I have no regrets” because the choices I made led me to a place of peacefulness, gratitude, and joy. I’d like to be able to kiss and hug my loved ones, my children (hopefully), and tell them I am proud of who they have become. I’d like to be able to discuss with them their plans, their loves, their passions, the yet-unknown but bright future ahead. If this is what it means to grow old, I’d like all of that too, someday.
Graphic from the animated movie Up!
Who knows if a few decades from now, I and my brothers will also have children who will ponder our getting old. Will they also want it for themselves? I still have a lifetime of choices to make in order for that to come true. For now, it is I who wonder at the slow and steady glory, the warm glow that growing old brings.