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growing through relationship

growing through relationship

by Andrea
February 4, 2013

Since my last post, content to just be, I've been thinking more about the relationship between our own fear of aging and the sad reality that elderly people are too often left uncared for in our culture. When Judy and I started this blog site, I sent it to someone I respect very much. I wanted her review. Her response hit the mark, especially this paragraph...

"...My husband's father just turned 90 and has been in a nursing home for over 2 years. The family doesn't go to see him very often because "he's not the dad we know," and to me, that attitude makes me feel very sad; yet I am aware that many many people are afraid of the aging process. If your blog inspires one person to reach out to an aging parentto be less afraid—then the work that you put into this is very well spent..."

What is it? What is it about the aging process that frightens us? Is it that old bodies grow tired, weak, and less capable? That old skin gets wrinkled and thin and less beautiful? That old hair grows gray or white and loses its luster? Or is it that old minds are not so sharp, and become forgetful? 

I’m not so sure it's any of these things. I mean we may feel a little intimidated by the inevitable changes to our minds and bodies as we age, but I think there is something even deeper at work here. I think that we’re afraid that as we get older, we stop growing inside. And when we stop growing inside, we fade away into the shadows of life. Nothing is more terrifying than that. But it happens. All too often, it happens. Look around. Re-read the quote above.

So the question is, does it need to be this way? Does it need to end this way? Is it really inevitable that as we get old, we will stop growing inside and will fade into the background of life? The answer may not be so comforting.

I think the answer is, it depends.

Human beings grow through relationship. When we are babies, kids, teens, adults we grow through relationship. And yes, when we are old we still grow through relationship. Relationship with others, with work, with activities, with pets. Relationship is like the air we breath. When we don't have relationship in our lives, we stop growing inside.

My mother was not someone who had many extra activities in her life. Her work was raising her nine kids. She never had pets. She always loved to read, and that has kept her very informed and engaged. But a few years ago, when I saw my mother fading and losing interest in life, I made a very conscious choice. I decided to deepen my relationship with her, and go beyond the stereotypical "daughter becomes the parent" role. I had a hunch that if I spent enough genuine time with my mother, in real relationship, she would have to come out from the shadows, and that she would grow. She would have to. It's just how life works. Even when we're old.

Well if you have read any of my other posts, you all know what happened by now. This entire website is about what happened. Of course it worked. My mother has become more loving and lovable, dignified and more adaptable than I could ever have imagined she would be. She is growing inside again. My siblings and I spend sweet time with her, no longer having to worry about her falling or if she is eating. In fact, I just came back from seeing her. I had an email from a friend, asking how she was doing? The words flew out of my fingers, "She's getting younger."

My friend sent me back a smiley face :)

Feel free to share your thoughts


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