Recently, I came across an article in Next Avenue, entitled, “Things We’ll Do Differently When We’re Old.”
The title worked, and I clicked to learn more about the context of such a tantalizing promise.
Things I’ll do differently from what I do now?
Things I’ll do differently from others?
As I dug in, the promise emerged. Associate Editor Grace Birnstengel couched it like this:
Adult children of aging parents often find themselves hyperanalyzing the behaviors and choices of their mothers and fathers and using this information as motivation to do things a bit differently…
Birnstengel goes on to describe how journalist Steven Petrow created a “list of things he will and won’t do as he ages” in an article for the New York Times, “Things I’ll Do Differently When I’m Old.”
It’s an interesting array of items—like giving up the car keys at just the right time, gladly accepting assistive devices when needed, and wholeheartedly embracing the need to wear adult briefs.
It made me smile.
And it made me sad.
It also aggravated me a bit.
Because when we start to lace up those shoes, when we begin describing the effects of aging in first person—the dynamics will be much more complex than they appeared in the seeming bliss of our younger years.
And I’m pretty sure Steven knows that.
Within his words, I can feel the love and concern that drives the frustration that adult children often feel.
The reality, though, is that aging can be tremendously difficult.
Within that journey lies the potential to lose so much. Namely—loved ones, independence and dignity.
As a result, what sometimes emerges are Grief and Fear wearing various disguises.
Anger. Stubbornness. A need to hyper-control.
It’s not that aging parents aren’t listening or are trying to drive their adult children crazy, it’s that sometimes they’re afraid of what will happen if they finally let go.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I disagree with Steven’s need to create such a list. I think we should all learn from our elders.
So, based on my own parents’ examples, here are nine things I hope to imitate when I am old:
- To be kind and gentle with others.
- To be patient when things aren’t going my way.
- To endure my physical frailty with grace and dignity.
- To be sensitive to the needs of others, providing encouragement when it’s needed.
- To nurture my relationship with God and minister to those in need.
- To be my own best advocate and partner with those who support me.
- To continue learning, no matter what.
- To keep a great sense of humor and have an absurd amount of fun.
- To love unconditionally.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. It’s a great list.
For more resources about Graceful Aging and other topics, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.
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