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The Hard Conversations

I have seen this article circulating facebook for a while now.  The picture grabs my attention and draws me in each time.  I love the passage that follows.  I imagine that many years ago the mother looked just like the daughter does now. It makes me reflect on my relationship with my mother and grandmother.

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way … remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you … my darling daughter.

Original text in Spanish and photo by Guillermo Peña. Translation to English by Sergio Cadena

Aging can be a difficult stage to navigate gracefully.  The younger generation often struggles with fear and exhaustion as they watch their parent’s age.  I remember watching my mother care for my grandmother.  I remember the moments that my mom started to emotionally break.  It is hard to watch the woman who cared for you turn fragile and forgetful.

As a new mother I think of the patience I have with my son because it brings joy to teach him.  I love the connection this passage makes between raising a child and caring for the elderly.  This passage recognizes that aging is inevitable and we should enjoy the time remaining.

My grandmother passed away 2 years ago, but her birthday was Monday May 12.  In the last few years of her life she was frequently hospitalized.  During this time she required considerable assistance.  However, it was in the last few years that we grew closer than ever.  I loved our tender conversations.

We had many heart to heart conversations to face: can you live on your own, can you drive, how is your memory, how would you like your funeral, your last will and testament? Thankfully, my grandmother was wise in her responses.  One specific day she realized she could no longer live by herself due to safety. When I asked, “Grandma, do you think it is time to find other living arrangements?” Her answer was so simple, yet poignant, “I guess so” in her some how chipper, but wise voice.

It is then I realized the strength in age.  You don’t live to be 83 without enduring a few trials.  My grandmother was not expected to live at birth.  They did not name her until she was a few years old because she was expected to pass anytime.  They simply called her the baby.  She retells the story of how she remembers having a photo shoot for pictures to place on her tombstone.

She grew up to be a mother of five and retire from a career at CPS.  In her words, “she lived to see the world go from horse and buggies to space ships.”  She lived through the Great Depression.  No wonder she had such strength and dignity now.

I then realized she was teaching me; even as her memory came and went. As her body failed her spirit was wiser than ever.

I often hear people ask,” how do you talk about death with your parents?”  I think the younger generation must be brave enough to ask the questions and the older generation will continue to teach.