When age shatters childhood illusions

With age comes wisdom, but also frailty

In Summary

• It is painful to discover our parents are not the superheroes we imagined them to be

Old couple eats lunch
Old couple eats lunch

Do you remember how your parents looked like superheroes when you were a kid? How they carried you in one hand and lifted you in the air, with your gleeful squeals filling up the house? Do you remember the sense of security you had by having them by your side?

I remember dreaming of the day I would grow up and have my own family. Oddly, in these dreams of the future, my parents still looked the same. I could never imagine my parents changing or ageing one bit.

I never imagined that as parents age, the children have to ‘parent’ them. It is not easy seeing these once-strong figures in my life age and weaken before my eyes. It has been tough seeing my parent’s age and become more dependent. As I began the journey of accepting they are in their old age and would rely on my siblings and I, it never occurred to me that tougher days lay ahead.

A couple of weeks ago, I was woken in the middle of the night. My mother’s voice, which was riddled with urgency and panic, was sufficient to rouse me into consciousness almost immediately.

My father’s knees had given way and he could not get back up from the floor. On any given day, there are people who came to stay or house help nearby, but on this ill-fated day, the three of us were completely alone in the house. For a long time, this was my mother’s worst nightmare and it had come to pass.

As we both tried to lift him up, I realised my mother was struggling with her side. I asked her to step aside, hooked my father’s shoulders from the back and pulled. Let me start by saying that my father is a literal giant of a man, standing over six foot 3 inches, he towers above me significantly. For the life of me, I could not say where the strength came from. For some strange reason, all I could think was how I made the gym instructors' lives miserable when I could not carry simple weights.

The incident reminded me of how I had just made the conscious decision to have a healthy lifestyle so I would be able to have the energy to chase my own kids around. I never imagined I needed to live a healthier lifestyle so I could take care of my own parents. Alas, the goal has changed. I came to the sad realisation that our parents are not the superheroes we imagined them to be. I realised that one day, we have to be their superheroes.

For a lastborn like myself, who has always been favoured by the overprotective man that is my father all my life, seeing him like that, albeit for a short time, was the hardest thing I had to witness.

It forced me to come to terms with age. I couldn’t help thinking ageing must be a human’s worst nightmare. We like to live our lives to the fullest; we enjoy our youth and live for the wisdom that comes with age.

However, no one ever wants to witness the age of frailty. The age where we have to depend on others for every little thing. The age that encompasses our entire life in one short kaleidoscope of memories. The age that reminds you of the eventuality. A reminder that life comes with an expiration date.