You think that the most difficult parent-child conversation was the one you had with your kids about sex, don’t you? But it’s not.
The most difficult conversation of all is the one your adult children want to have with you now. It’s about how you’re doing.
You won’t like it. However nicely they try to put it, you’ll just hear you can’t manage your own life. And you won’t like that. You won’t hear they love you. Worry about you. Fear for you. And you won’t like their concern.
Here’s the thing. Your whole generation was sold that “independence” myth. Self-isolation. where we don’t share our troubles. Don’t admit anything and don’t ask for anything. Because we’re supposed to manage alone – or we’ve failed.
Now you’re stuck with the next two generations of people who’ve learned that family secrets are unhealthy. Now they’re revealed so that healing and relief can happen.
You’ll be lucky if your grandchildren don’t get on YouTube to tell the whole world about you getting old. So, just let me whisper a truth or two to you now.
I’ve worked with elders for 20 years. Your secrecy policy will kill you. You’re not fine. You do need help. No-one cares if you don’t want helpful strangers in your house. The family wants them in your house, helping you stay home.
The family peeked in your fridge. They found restaurant leftovers, some dried up vegetables, a lemon or so, some old mayonnaise and 10 containers of ice-cream. They can see dirt on the floor, the dust on your unused oven, the pills you dropped and food spots on your clothes.
You’re more concerned with your pride and your secrets than talking honestly with your kids. If you think they don’t notice your memory slipping, you’re wrong.
If you don’t talk with them, they’ll talk to each other, to your grandkids, to social workers and even to Adult Protective Services. Because you make them.
People get old. It’s no secret. But this fake “independence” thing – it’ll ruin you. And it never was anything other than fake.
We humans are tribal people. We are even designed – divinely or evolutionarily – to be so. How do we know? Because our babies are born helpless and take at least a decade to do most things for themselves. Because becoming old takes a long time and lots of stages.
This “independence” myth was never much more than fear of strangers objectified into a desirable character trait. As an arrived American, rather than a born American, I put it down to pioneer stuff. Of course, the Donner Party didn’t do much for the idea of trusting strangers, I know.
But you must surely know better. The key to most human survival is the sacred undertaking of interdependence. I still hope that this may become a society where all peoples care about each the meantime, you certainly know your friends care. Your family care. Your neighbors. To varying degrees, all good people care.
So what the heck are you playing at? There’s nothing more destructive to your true survival in a life you want than being too darn proud and stubborn to reach out for a hand. To call in the kids for that difficult conversation
If you’re too proud and too scared to ask, there is nothing more aging than that.