The twilight of the years – everyone is heading there. Thanks to medicine, people now have a lifespan of 80 years. Whether that is good news or not, the fact remains – we have to prepare for a long life. But how grand or how miserable your exit will be is up to you.
Yes, in fact, the world is graying. The United Nations projected that by the year 2050, the population of 60 plus would have doubled and that this would place enormous social and financial strain on private pension and government social security systems.
In third world countries, the strain is not only on the economy but also on family relationships.
If you are old and feel the weight of your years, you know what I mean.
If are taking care of an old relative, or have, you know of what I speak of.
I have, too. If only for a moment.
She is my Inay. This means “mother”. But she is in fact my grandmother, mother of my mother.
Hers is of aging in the first world, a good story.
I was her favorite, and she was mine. So I was summoned to America when she was near death. Body detained by the wheelchair, visibly weakened and ravaged by lung cancer, she smiled at me and enveloped me in her arms. I smiled, breathing a sigh of relief, and hugged her back.
We had a routine. I would sit on her left side, and alternate between holding her hands and smoothing her hair. At times, I would play nurse and would change her diapers or administer her many medicines. In her lucid moments, she would captivate me with stories of her childhood (and mine, or what she remembered of it). She told of meeting my grandfather, eyes sparkling with love and mischief and wisdom, of people and names and places, both long ago and far away. She devoured my time, was jealous when I squandered it, and would visibly sulk when I had to leave for Disneyland or Sea World and one more other tourist trap.
A nurse was at her beck and call. One word and sweet pain would cease to course through her veins. She had family, friends, comfort. Money was not a problem, taking care of her was not a problem. It was a privilege and an honor to be at her side. She had a good life.
Contrast this to growing old in a third world country, where the impact of a graying world is a heavy burden to private coffers.
What follows is a sad story.
It is a story of a father, as told by Bo Sanchez in one of his seminars. The father has just gotten sick. Really sick. He rose up from his bed to make his way to the kitchen. He passed his daughter talking on the phone. She was saying, “Kuya, when will you be picking up dad? It is your turn now. We have had him for 2 weeks.” Annoyance, and something else – anger and despair – crept in her voice. “Do you know that we spent for his hospitalization the money we were saving to buy a cellphone for our son? Kuya please take him today.” The unspoken words: we do not want him.
The old man looked within and saw a burden, a big burden, unwanted by the children to whom he dedicated all his life.
Getting old, or getting old and poor, at least in the present day, is a crime. And what is alarming is that people do not realize this, look at retirement as something that they need not think about or prepare for. More often than not, parents expect a son or a daughter to take care of them. They do not realize that once the roles are reversed, when the money and the influence has dwindled, sometimes, so may pity, love, care, respect.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday – Kahlil Gibran.
Prepare for those years. Let it be long, but let it not be hard. Not for you. Or your family.
Article by Issa. Art by D. Copyright 2009.
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