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The age old old-age story

I stumbled upon this post by Hip hop grandma which set me thinking. How true! -is all I can say, for I have a first-hand experience of such a scenario. My paternal grandparents lived to the ripe age of eighties and nineties. They had seven children, 5 sons and 2 daughters. Grandfather was a man who, I thought, was absorbed and obsessed with himself. His disposition never exuded the warmth that is expected from “grandparents”. He rarely spoke to us, his grandchildren, with a smile. There were rare occasions when he would speak to me about my studies, etc but the comfort factor in a grandparent-grandchild relationship was always missing. My grand-mom was subservient and timid in nature, had very little opinion of anything in life. I sometimes doubt it was due to the nature of my dominating grandfather that she never bloomed intellectually.

Grandmother gave up kitchen and other household duties once the daughters-in law arrived. To cook and cater to such a large family was definitely not a pleasant task for any daughter-in-law, to put it very mildly. That this huge family lived in a small one room kitchen flat didn’t make matters any better. Slowly the individual families started to move out to live separately until only the last uncle, the aunt and my grandparents remained.

The usual in-law intolerance (both parties being equally intolerant of the other) led to an understanding and arrangement between the brothers that the parents would live with each one of them for equal amounts of time during the year. Whether the parents, i.e. my grandparents were consulted on this agreement, I don’t know. There were five sons, so the math came to around 2.5 months at each son’s house. 2.5 months of their presence each year was not too much yet their visits were never welcome. I cannot say what my father felt about it since we never spoke openly about such issues. My mother being a working woman had extra work on hand during those 2.5 months. The entire house would don a tense atmosphere for the fear of upsetting the precariously balanced emotions of each member. I do not recall any moments of conversations between my grandparents and our mother that spoke of love, care and wisdom that age brings in. Although, we, as children, could not analyze the situation then, the gloom around caught on to us and needless to say we didn’t look forward to it. Sadly, this was the case not only in our house but also at our cousins’. At an age where life could have been enriched in the company of so many grandchildren, my grandparents were left poorer due to their sheer incapability to come out of their self-imposed shell. My analysis and observation may be flawed and seem one-sided to tilt in favour of my mother who would recount her younger days as a daughter-in-law when her sincere attempts to win my grandparents over were not reciprocated.

As I look back at those years, I feel bad for my grandparents. Indeed a very sad and painful situation for someone to be in. Your near and dear ones wish for the inevitable for you so as to breathe easy. Did they bring it on themselves to evoke such emotions? Yes and no. Perhaps yes; if only they had been more demonstrative of their love (if any) towards the daughters-in-law; if only they had shown some care and warmth towards the grandchildren. Yet, the answers are not so straight forward. Even if the aging party is a warm, kind and happy one, how far can the next generation travel along with them? Taking care of aging parents is not just about love and duty. Year after year of constant catering of emotional, medical and spiritual needs takes a toll on the younger generation who do not remain any younger too. They have their own set of problems and challenges in life and wish to move on. So then, is old-age home a solution? I have addressed this part in one of my earlier posts (here) that as I grow older I would not wish to be a burden on my offspring. I hope the children who opt for such an option are not mistaken to be ruthless souls who have no gratitude towards their parents. This, I say as a parent but when I think of the same option as a child to my parents, I cannot bring myself to doing it.

I believe our ancestors had the four stages to life very clearly etched out to deal with such delicate matters. The king would renounce the kingdom and venture into the forest to seek higher awareness once his progeny was ready to take on his responsibility. How foresighted were they, our fore-fathers!


  1. forgot to add the link to the original post that led me to write this-


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