Posted: Aug 23 2017
Aging is a natural fact of life - we’re all going through some stage of it.
Recently, I’ve come to notice how this impacts life with older relatives. In Canada, my family is very small. But back in our homeland, we have lots of additional relatives, including my grandparents. Every year for the last twenty years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit with them over the summer. Last year though, I began to notice some significant changes in the way they were speaking, thinking, and behaving. Nothing major - but it has become clear that they are much older. It’s a tough reality to face, especially since I tend to remember them the same way as when I was a child - always busy, strong and capable.
Seeing them only over the summers, it’s as though time slowed - each year I'd return they’d look pretty much the same, and they’d have the same routines and habits. Now, they still look relatively the same, but they’ve slowed down - they’ve been planting less in the garden, they’ve been keeping fewer animals on the farm, they’ve been spending less time actively outdoors. Though this has become a sad reminder of how quickly time passes, it’s also a lesson in taking a step back to consider how our relationships evolve.
For some reason, many of us (myself included) tend to be rather tough on our closest family members. How is it that we can muster all our strength to be kind to strangers, yet we can bite the heads off our siblings, parents or grandparents? Though it’s very important in my culture to show respect to our elders, there are plenty of times that I’ll either be guilty of or witness to, a lack of respect. Our closest family members are typically the ones we trust the most, and the ones that are most forgiving to our flaws and mistakes. However, this should never be an excuse to take out our frustrations with them. Although it’s extremely challenging, and I'm nowhere near my goal in this particular case, I strongly believe that showing tolerance, kindness, and forgiveness to our family should be of utmost importance. This also includes our closest friends, as many of them are considered family, and are equally capable of being an easy target to lash out at in a moment of frustration.
Even though I believe our tolerance and kindness should be practiced on all our loved ones, I especially find the need to incorporate this belief when it comes to the elderly. I can see it with my own grandparents - their minds are less able to adapt to change; they even get more stubborn. Aging is hard, and I can only imagine the difficulty as they come to terms with losing many of the capabilities to which they had become accustomed. I continue to remind myself that the time we have together is fleeting, as years continue to fly by us all. What’s truly important in that case? Getting bothered by the fact that their minds are set on certain habits and beliefs, or quietly listening and showing them patience and optimism? Personally, I believe it’s the later…but that’s just me :)
Katarina Kalaminec // Lifestyle Writer