Monday, June 15, 2009

a memo to old people

Old people should age gracefully.

If we are expected to sacrifice part of our busy, important lives to taking care of them, then the least they can do is not be miserable, cranky, bad-tempered, depressed, moody or ill.

Under no circumstances should they emit embarrassing smells, fluids, vapors or other substances from their bodies.

If they had any sense of decency, old people would pass away quietly in their sleep before they actually became dependent on anyone for their physical or emotional needs.

Unless of course, they have the money to take care of themselves. On the other hand, even that money is actually going down the drain.

If they have to go in a few days, the earlier the better, so that the nest egg they leave us is all that more substantial.

Of course, we are justified in expecting this much of old people.

After all, when we were little, did they not teach us always to behave in a particular way, not to be naughty, or selfish, or violent, or lazy?

Did they not scold and beat us till we learnt to control the flow of our bodily emissions in a socially acceptable way?

Did they not push and prod us to spend the better part of our days in institutions?

Did they not make us aware of the money they were spending on us, and how we ought to repay them?

Oh, old people are cunning. They'd like to forget those days when they stood over us with a controlling hand, and appeal now for pity.

But how can we forget that we need to pay them back?

(I'd written this a while ago, when I found myself irritated at the demands an old friend was making on me. Or angry at the unreasonable behaviour of my depressed mother. It came back to me when I read this a couple of days ago. And added the following footnote.)

And as for old people seeking sex, love or companionship, even the thought is reprehensible. And punishable. For didn't they teach us to repress our sexual feelings when we were young? And didn't they punish us for loving inconveniently?


Dr. Ally Critter said...

I find the "supposed to look after them" part bad. It forces a relationship of sorts- a relationship that by all rights should already be there.

dipali said...

I think the toughest part of looking after old people, and especially ones
parents, is that however helpless/childish/frail they may be, they still pull rank as parents. Secondly, if only they were little enough to pick up easily when required. it's a strangely difficult role reversal:(

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head when you say: 'days when they stood over us with a controlling hand, and appeal now for pity'. Well said!!

aniltejani said...

"Old age is like everything else.To make a success of it ,you,ve got to start young" Fred Astaire

I think you are going to grow old very gracefully.

memsaab said...

I love Bette Davis' opinion on aging best: "Old age is no place for sissies."

And also from The Who: "Hope I die before I get old."

Oh, and Harry Nilsson: "I'd rather be dead than wet my bed."

I guess I could go on and on, but I won't.

gypsy said...

well said...

i guess the part which is more unacceptable is of role reversal..we are just now prepared for it...

of late, i have realized its tough seeing your parents ageing...

Space Bar said...

I don't know if I am the only one getting a sense of the bitterness undercut by something else that is more...not ironic but aware of what is to come for oneself.

I like this, because it seems to be saying you reap what you sow.

Banno said...

Space Bar,

Bitterness, no, because I'm not there yet.

But watching my own impatience and realizing how easy it is to forget the years of patience put into rearing a human child.

My own unreasonable demands that a person should age gracefully. But why and how? Old age is as messy and as bravely dignified as the other phases of life.

We'd all love no-fuss babies and no-fuss old people, wouldn't we?

And yes, I have caught myself wondering at times on hearing of someone's fate, what they did to deserve it. Karma is so ingrained in our consciousness but it is hard at times to swallow its results.

Don't know whether I'm making any sense at all.

Space Bar said...

yes! you totally are. this is what i mean by the bitterness (which you may not have) being undercut by something else.

i suppose old people understand better than we do our current impatience, even though they have to bear the brunt of it.

And I don't see karma as some mysterious force; it's about responsibility.

Banno said...

Yes, agree about karma being responsibility. That makes it harder, doesn't it? Easier to submit to a mysterious force.

Crimson Feet said...

am i the only one finding this weirdly cruel?...

or this blatant admission of the anti-old sentiment is actually meant to augur realisations... either way.. not my cup of tea i guess..

Sue said...

I'm so scared. My turn is here and I'm doing a rotten job of taking care of a not-so-old person.

Unknown said...

I look after an old person, my Mother in law . I find her exasperating at times but then I push my impatience back and tell myself she is old but for all her eccentricities she has a soft bit of mush inside her for me . But if her daughter gives her a chance for a bit of chin wag about me .. she wont pass up that opportunity . But I findit in me to be magnanimous because it gives me a good feeling .

silla said...

Well, part true. But still, theyve taken care of us and given us everything they could. and theyr still our parents and hopefully we love them and wouldnt mind that much helping them a lil. maybe being a kid is different there than in Sweden.

Banno said...


This was meant to say the same thing. That our parents and older relatives have taken a lot of care in rearing us, and we ought not to be impatient of them in their old age.

Human beings are the same everywhere. But I think here, i.e. in India, family ties are so strong, that people sometimes become uncivilised in their behaviour.

Unknown said...

Made me smile this post. If only it were that easy. After all, isn't old age the second childhood? How do you avenge years of institutionalized tortures and such from a meek, kindly parent who still remembers all your dirty secrets like how the top of a slide made you wet your pants?

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