Monday, February 08, 2016


I am losing myself every day. I used to jumble words, usually nouns, in my head. Now I sit in front of the computer not quite sure why I am here, what I’m supposed to be doing and how long have I been sitting here struggling to figure these details out. It came as a sort of lull which gradually but surely started spreading into the deeper recesses of my mind – into my memories. It started tampering with my carefully stored memories, at first, merely misplacing a timeline which, later, became dropping whole chunks of the memory until now I’m left with hazy fragments. Disjointed memories, fumbling sentences – these are the memories I’m creating for you.

If I am ailing, then that’s fine. But I can see it in your eyes; the confusion of what is happening to your interaction with me, the sadness when you realize that this is one of my better days, and the resignation that this is the best that you are going to get because there is worse just around the corner. I don’t want my memories as much as the skills to pretend like I am a normal person. You are ailing by merely being related to me, for caring and for loving me. That, my dear, is a curse upon me and a curse upon you.

I rely on my intellect, rational thinking, diction, language, communication and articulation for my keep. I study human interaction, especially in healthcare settings. Yet here I am, slowly losing my capacities. It is scary. I don’t know what will happen to me and I don’t know what will happen to us. Will you forgive me for becoming this heap of emotions? Will you move past the fear that grips my heart and chokes my life? Will you be okay when I am pass on, blissfully unaware that I leave a mourning family behind?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Their willfulness is their undoing, really.

Old age does funny things to people. Some people respond positively to aging and some resist it with gusto. I’ve observed that the latter pays a hefty price for their behaviour. I can only think of a few of the costs, though. First, they alienate themselves from their loved ones. The ones who love them (i.e., often the primary caretakers) experience multitude of emotions resulting in sub-optimal caretaking behaviours. These caretakers’ – who are usually the children – memories are reconstructed in what seems to me a nearly always negative tone, thereby, in some way, reflecting their older relative’s attitude. Frequently, the aging person will stick to their patterns, regress to what becomes an old-fashioned or traditional ideology, and resist attempts to correction and even genuine introspection. Consequently, this leads to a double-pronged, cyclical troubled (and troubling!) dance wherein the caretakers will insist on change which is basically an extension of wanting this older person to understand, accept and adhere to their point-of-view that is met with the older person lashing out in whatever way suits the situation and their ability at the time (e.g., name-calling, stubbornness, argumentativeness, silence, manipulation). Most painfully, in India, I see that the grandchildren involve themselves in this tussle. I believe that grandchildren, no matter how old they are in age themselves, do not have the experience, knowledge, connection or maturity to deal with this difficult situation. However, the grandchildren will weigh in. These opinions are often in favour of the caretaker (i.e., their parents), thereby stoking the fire and increasing the gap between their grandparent and their own parents.  

This brings me to the second price that these aging people pay: they are left with not only their own feelings of resentment but also that of their children and their grandchildren. In other, less eloquent words, they feel like shit and people around them feel like shit as well. Now, that’s a very sad outcome of resisting the unavoidable reality of aging because not only are they on the losing end of the bargain but also they are breeding negativity in the third generation. I believe that the grandchildren (and for that matter the children) will not be able to make peace with themselves should something untoward happen to the grandparent. I was wrecked with guilt and regret for having a sour relationship with my maternal grandfather just a few weeks before he passed away suddenly (he was in no need of caretaking at the time though). It haunts you. It tears you apart. And I swore to myself I will not behave in that despicable manner with my 3 remaining grandparents. In my books, I strived and succeeded. Sure, I yelled and said mean things. But by the time I reached my home or the end of the day and thought about it, I knew I did something wrong and always made amendments. When you have difficult grandparents (trust me, none of the remaining grandparents were/are easy!), you have only two choices. You can either support your parents in a constructive way or you can step away from the situation. But I’m a psychologist, fairly introspective, have a wise husband who is also my mentor, and, importantly, I fear the feeling of guilt, so I try my best to self-regulate with grandparents. Not everyone can do that when they are frequently put in a situation that requires you to engage. Unfortunately, grandparents indirectly or directly force the hand of their children and grandchildren into behaving in this rude way which will result in them feeling guilt, regret, sadness, anguish and depression when their (grand)parent is long gone.

Reflecting this, a third price that old people who resist aging is they miss out on love during their twilight years. There is just so much friction when older people cannot adjust, however justified, that there is no space and time to create love. The giving and receiving of love is the best part of growing old. People who gracefully age tend to be in the center of so much love and affection, even if they were horrible people when they were young. Their counterparts, those who fight the natural course of aging, may have been wonderful, helpful, and supportive in their younger years. These positive contributions to their caretakers lives are quickly forgotten when they stick onto what is considered by the current times archaic ways of life. It is difficult for the people around them to understand and accommodate a degenerating brain, neurons that shut down and reject opportunities to ignite new pathways, a mind that is so set in its loops. It is difficult for them to overcome what their ward’s willfulness and forgive them their age. And in the end of this entire struggle, all love is lost.