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One day I will be an old man

Note: The week end starts on a note of introspection :)

I am only sixty and do not consider myself to be an old man yet!

The attempt to show off my prowess on the gym floor is an act of defiance, a deep desire within to tell myself and the whole world, at the maximum decibel level I can muster, that I am not sixty but sixteen!

I also at times wonder if I have become a banana case! Or at least so might the family wonder…! Naw .. some more years to reach there!!!

I try to recall the days when my father was still alive and imagine what was his state of mind when he had crossed seventy. Unfortunately in his final few years he had been afflicted with Alzheimer’s that added to his ageing problems.

With that context, let me try to delve deeper into his typical behavior and see if I can find a reason to his apparently whimsical actions. I have a vested interest in doing this as the day is not far off when I might imitate nay replicate his behavior!

Where was he coming from?

- He was a busy and active person. He was a trainer to senior bankers for a long period and the habit of lecturing is not easy to give up!

- held senior positions wherever he worked

- was respected for his knowledge and experience

- generally considered as the family patriarch who was consulted, heard with attention and instantly obeyed. No one dared to question him. I would not even look into his eyes when I had conversations with him and my head was always bowed!

All this changed when my old man grew old!

But the real question was indeed who had changed? He or the family?

In growing old, what had he lost?

-Self esteem. He perhaps feared that he had lost the family respect.

-Independence, both emotional and financial

-The sense of being sought for decisions / consultation

This perception also brought forth certain behavioural disorders. What were the underlying concerns or anxiety?

- A sense of being an intruder

- A person who was not capable of handling even personal matters efficiently but insisted on being heard on anything and everything!

- A disorientation about where his life was taking him

- The demand to acquire new skills particularly if he had moved into a different society. Even clearing the dinner table or using the machine to wash the dishes was a challenge

- A serious loss of memory and consequent bumbling in almost everything

- A serious loss of confidence because the family did not now trust him to take the kids to the school or go shopping as he was perhaps incapable of crossing the road safely.

- Sense of not being wanted anymore started gnawing him

- Sense of insecurity, often financial, and the apprehension that there was a dependence on the youngsters for survival and god forbid medical expenses.

- Difficulty in accepting that his child had now grown to become a man who could lead his life by himself! For the parent, the child remains a child forever who requires care, guidance and protection. The question of surrendering to the child therefore never occurred to the old man till it was late. My father gave me access to his finances when he was past 65 and I was around 45 and I don’t think I will pass on to my son for at least next ten years!!

This is not an exaggeration and could apply totally or at least partly and in varying degrees to every ageing person. However, this reflects the reality in the Indian context and may not necessarily hold good in the western society where the positioning of the elders in the family is different.

Some instances from real life:

-where the old man moved to his son’s residence in Europe after the demise of his life partner of over sixty years and was discomforted by the thought of having to clear the table and clean the dishes. But then he also wanted to be heard on how you rearrange the living room furniture!

-another old man was aware that he was not equipped to advise the younger family members and so chose to occupy himself with his long walks and taking care of the shopping for groceries for the family. He had no grievance if he was not consulted. He was a rarity!

-Another old man was totally perplexed at the behavior of the young girl in the house, his grand daughter, who returned home in the wee hours of the morning after her work schedule in the media industry. He would spend all the night pacing up and down the living room in anxiety and fear refusing to accept that the work paradigm had changed!

These are layman observations. I might be totally wrong in my analysis and also perhaps exaggerating my perception of the behavior. However, a trained psychoanalyst would see better meaning in the pattern.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the shrink were to say “medical attention is required not for the old man but for the younger members of the family” . He might also want to add ‘give the old man the confidence and the sense of being wanted … his happiness and in turn that of the family will quickly be restored”

Singapore
19 Oct 2013

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About The Author

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Ganesh - R

Corporate/Business/Professional

SINGAPORE

A corporate manager for over 40  years with an all round exposure. Have had the good fortune of great bosses who unfailingly took the risk of trying me out with  new functional responsibilities  that I was neither qualified to handle nor had any prior exposure. This served as an excellent opportunity for learning and  the exciting process continues even as I am ready to retire! 

 Have bid adieu to formal learning process long ago but the quest  continues.

"Human beings" interest me the most .. the curiosity at observing and learning from fellow beings appears to be a key  driver at this stage of life. Would like to spend the rest of the days in making a difference to them.

Other interests include gymming, music, etc..  

Blogging seems to be a god sent opportunity to laugh at oneself freely and without any pretensions. It also provides an excellent route to introspection albeit a bit loudly!


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