On Aging – My Dad

jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-ageing4

My dad is 82; he is old. Once you turn 80, I believe, you become officially old, no way around it. Aging and dying are difficult processes. I don’t want my dad to get sick; I don’t want my dad to die. I, myself, see how youth is trailing behind me, soon to be let go.

In this society that idolizes vigor and energy, aging is difficult. There is so much to learn from wisdom and age, but we decide to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist. Well, in my search for understanding, I decided to ask my dad hard questions about aging, questions that we don’t like to ask. I wanted to know how he feels about being old, and I want to prepare myself for what is coming.

jestcafe.com--On aging, my dadMy dad is a nice man that has changed drastically in old age. Sometimes he can be detached from others; he lives in his own world of poetry, classical music, and art; but he is also very loving. His grandkids and his job have become the essence of his existence. I have always felt loved by him, and I always knew he was special. He is an intellectual, smart, very creative man, with a wonderful sense of humor. He introduced me to the world through art, compassion and laughter.

Before we move on to the questions I asked, I would like to alert you that my dad could be a pessimistic poet. I tried my best translating his words (he is a Spanish speaker), but it was difficult to capture the nuances of his terms and humor. In the future, I would like to interview more people over 80 for this blog, as an attempt to capture wisdom and knowledge. In hindsight, I should have started with a person that sees life and age through a positive lens, but, on the other hand, why avoid difficulty? There is beauty and growth in everything.

jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging

Here are the questions that I asked my dad, and here are the answers he gave me. I hope you like this one.

1) What have you liked the most about living so far?

It moves me to remember the games and studies at my school in La Serena (Seminario Conciliar), Chile; my first platonic love for whom I shed tears; building our house in Angamos, Punta Arenas, the Versailles of my existence. I would also like to resurrect our ski trips to the Cerro Mirador, where the snow still cries for us, and the sweet and swift years of marriage to your mother (my parents got divorced 10 years ago, after 27 years of marriage).

2) What makes you happy right now?

Memories, which are now ruins that I’m only able to  see through the light of a torch.

3) How do you feel mentally? And, in comparison to when you were young?

Diminished. I live my life trying to avoid looking foolish, but I can’t.

4) How do you feel physically? And, in comparison to when you were young?

Also, diminished. The passing of time has slowly transformed my body into a heavy armor that tries to keep me motionless.

jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging8

5) How do you see your future? What do you expect from it?

To keep becoming ruins, supporting myself on pillars made out of memories.

6) What are the most impressive changes that you have witnessed during your life?

The technological changes that have isolated me and made me more dependant, limiting my autonomy.

7) At what age did you start feeling old?

In spite of my answers, nobody has yet created a calendar that can make me feel old.

jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging18) How is it to be old?

Is like being transformed into a night traveler, where the hills and land are hidden, and you can only discover the sky.

9) What is the hardest aspect of aging? What is the best aspect of aging?

As I told you before, I have not penetrated that stage yet. Ask me by knocking on my casket, or bury me with a cell phone so I can let you know.

10) How do you feel about death? How do you feel now that you are closer to it?

I will defend myself from her by clinging to my memories… I die every instant. My life is a consecutive number of deaths.

11) What advice would you give your grandkids?

I can’t think of anything I could be an example of. (This answer made me sad because it is not true, but I now this is what he believes)

 

Thanks, dad.  Te amo.

PS: Writing this post made me cry. If you have a parent that is old, I would encourage you to do the same exercise with him/her. It helps to understand and connect. If you do, please, share. I was also wondering, what other questions do you think I should have asked? What would you like to learn from our elders?
jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging7 The picture below doesn’t have the best quality, but it is so sweet, isn’t? You can see how comfortable the grandkids are around my dad. jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging11jestcafe.com--My-dad-on-aging9

Te amo, papi.

Let Us Connect:

You Might Like

16 replies
  1. Anne says:

    What a both inspiring and terrifying interview. I know the feeling of looking away, pretending death and aging is not there. Death hits you at any moment, anywhere, at any age, as we´ve sadly experienced the last 24 hours. But the thought of death creeping behind you and catching up with you as you´re slowly fading away as a human being is so painful. As a young daughter of a older father (61 years older than me), this struck me hard. Not sure I have the guts to ask him all these questions.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      I hope my post wasn’t too depressing! To tell you the truth, I was expecting my dad to be more positive, but he wasn’t. He is a pessimist in general so I am not surprised. I am hoping others will see aging under a better light. We will see. I do know one thing, he really enjoyed having this talk with me. He put a lot of thought into his answers and was very happy while doing it.
      Your dad is so much older than you are! It must be hard. My dad is 46 years older than me, also a lot older. Seeing them age is very difficult. Maybe asking him this kind of questions is hard, but, what about other questions about his life? Maybe about his childhood, parenthood, lessons learned, etc? Record them in video or audio if you can. I would love to hear.

      Reply
  2. Carina says:

    Hello Mila. Thank you so much for this very genuine and moving post. Your father seems like a fascinating person, his answers are poetic. I had to stop and absorb his response to question number 8. I was also particularly touched, and saddened, by how technology has made him feel isolated. I think that is the case for many older people. My father is now in palliative care, and he lives in another city so that I am not able to see him as often as I wish I could. 2015 has been a difficult year for my family, as we’ve had several deaths and illnesses, and I am grappling closely with the ideas that you face in this beautiful post. I agree so wholeheartedly that our culture and society doesn’t value the incredible wisdom and depth that comes with aging. Este post es hermoso, muchisimas gracias por comparatirlo.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      Carina! Thank you so much. I was a little bit worried about it being a little bit sad, but I think is so important to stop and listen. The answer about technology also touched me, I wasn’t expecting it.
      About your dad, it breaks my heart living so far from my dad, as you do. I need/want to enjoy him as much as I can before something happens, but life gets in the way. I don’t want to have all these regrets once is too late. I need to do better.
      Muchas gracias por tu comentario, muy lindo.

      Reply
  3. yassi says:

    just read this and it is the nicest thing i’ve read all week ….it was not depressing at all, rather i found it beautiful, reflecting back on a long meaningful life well lived. Life is truly made of moments and conversations like this.
    i will do the same with my 85 year old father when i see him… xox

    Reply
  4. Jeni says:

    This post took my breath away, and very nearly made me cry 🙁

    His answers are so poetic “Memories, which are now ruins that I’m only able to see through the light of a torch” and you are very lucky to have a dad with still so much to give to the world.

    I’m definitely thinking of asking my 96-year-old granny some of these questions too. Her fave piece of advice for me is “don’t grow old, Jen!’

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      My mom says aging is a betrayal!
      I would LOVE To hear what your granny has to say about this. 96 years old! that is amazing. You are so lucky to still have her with you. Please, let me know what she answers to some of the questions. I am so curious to know.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *