Sometimes circumstances lead us to put aside those who gave us life. Here I share some tips to incorporate them back into family life.
Mr. Antonio turned the wheel of his chair to approach the window again. Through it he looked at the plants, seen over and over again. How long had it been since he had last approached the window? He turned his face to the clock on the wall. Just twenty minutes. It seemed as if hours had passed, not minutes. When you are a child, the minutes seem so long; dates are often delayed longer than desired. Then, as the years go by, the hours seem to shorten; time passes before our eyes, insensitive to our daily pretensions and pressures. At the end comes old age with all its challenges and the hours return to the parsimony of childhood.
It had been more than three months since he broke his leg in a fall. A few days in the hospital they continued as many of total rest, in bed. At the time, he could at least sit in a wheelchair, apparently looking out over the garden. However, what he really wanted to see and hear were the footsteps of one of his sons, approaching. Perhaps that day one of them, or perhaps his grandchildren, would arrive to keep him company.
For him old age meant loneliness, depression and, often, helplessness. He couldn’t keep his eyes from getting wet. Lately the crying had come out so easily. Gone was the toughness that the vigor of youth gave him. He was sure that he had made many mistakes with his children. But his love for them had always been woven into each success and each mistake.
They were now realized men and women. Each had left home to start life, or to follow it. Good or bad, they had the life they chose. Then the grandchildren arrived, some, like their parents, had already formed a new family. They have all grown up, he told himself. Then he remembered the words he had once heard someone say: “A child really grows when he has learned to love. ” And he couldn’t help but wonder if his children had learned to truly love. And your grandchildren? Would they stay close to their parents, or would everyday life take them away from them as well?
Mr. Antonio’s life is not peculiar; in fact, if you look closely, it’s just too common. How many of us have abandoned our elders, physically or emotionally? Perhaps life itself forces us to move away; Or the habitual becomes so important in our eyes that we leave for a visit or a phone call later. Then they leave and we would like to go back in time to have them close once more. But it is late now, and time, as we all know, never returns.
What we do or do not do for them remains in time as a bitter memory of regret or as a sad memory for having lost them; or, perhaps, of satisfaction, having been united with them until the end. Just as they were when we were helpless beings, we needed their help.
The extremes of life are like this. At birth we totally depend on someone to satisfy, not only the primary needs, but also the affective ones. In the same way, in the end, you become a helpless being that needs physical and spiritual help. Gone are the days of strength, perhaps even toughness. The mistakes made must be in the past. We must learn to be grateful for all that they gave us and to forgive the mistakes that, as imperfect human beings that we all are, they may have made.
There are some ways to make our elders feel integrated into our lives. Some ideas could be:
Plant a tree together, explaining that it is the symbol of the many fruits that will be reflected in future generations.
Give them a good book; which they could read together.
Listen to each of their stories, regardless of whether they have been told to us many times. Maybe give them a very special notebook so they can write each of those memories that they love to narrate so much. Or maybe you can write them yourself and save as family history and treasure.
Ask them for advice that makes them feel useful.
Knowing their tastes can help us find more ideas to integrate them into our lives. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents, what is stopping you? Today is the day. Look for them. Today is the time: maybe pay them a visit, or a call to say “I love you” or give them a sincere “thank you, for giving me life.”