Here's The Only Question With Only One Answer

It may be hard to imagine any such question in such a divided land, but I think you’ll agree this one fits the bill: “Are your parents growing older?”

At first glance, it’s obvious our parents are the reason we are here; much of the reason we look, think, behave, even marry the way we do. And yet, especially if you’re young, their role in your life is often a dismissed given: “They come with the package!” Or an embarrassment: “Yeah, they decided to hang around!” Or a problem: “They’re just too old to get it!”

The Ancient Greek tragedians and later Freud had this thing about parents, especially the mother. She may be the fountainhead of your life, but she may also be the source to many of your neuroses. As for the father, well, his plague upon you is usually one of two calamities. Either he’s an absent father, or the reverse, one who suffocates you with his expectations.

Here’s another question. To which the answer will not be so obvious: When is the last time you looked at your parents?

Really, really looked. Not simply at their imagined vices and virtues, but at their faces and hands and posture. It’s no crime of the law for the child to take such matters for granted, but it is a crime of the heart, because the worst harm you can do them is take them for granted. Especially as they age, and your time with them whooshes like the sand through your fingers. Saints or sinners, they are aging before your young, busy eyes. True, it’s not your job to nurture them — that was their job — but it is your chance to start seeing them as more than those two folks who you can call any hour of the night. With feelings and fears and flaws greater than you ever thought.

The Pew Institute reports that nearly 40% of the population is now caring for an aging parent, up from 30% just three years ago. Something’s happening here. On the one side of the Great Scale modern medical science is keeping more aging parents alive; on the other side, more children are responding. Some lovingly…some grudgingly…some worriedly. Whatever the emotion, the reality is this. We

usually only get one set of parents per life. We then get only one chance to say thanks for that life.

How…? With your time. When…? Starting now.

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