Loving your parents is a sacred given in virtually every society and religion in the world. You and I say we love our parents, and here at Thanksgiving we may even take the time to thankfully tell them so. However, I feel it my sad duty to report such professions of love are really quite impossible.
Let me explain my pain.
When we are very young, we can in no real way identify with their adult feelings, fights and fortunes. How does a 10 year old fathom the burdens of the poverty from which they are being protected…how does a 20 year old comprehend the hopes curdled with the fears that fill their parents on their children’s wedding day….how does a 30 year old possibly relate to the concerns of advancing age that seep into their parents’ nighttime conversations at the kitchen table.
The answer is: Children can’t. Nor is this their fault, for it is the irrevocable law of life that youth cannot, probably should not, know these things before their time.
But now here’s the rest of this irony.
When we are older — forties, fifties, sixties — neither can we always identify with our parents’ childhood feelings, fights and fortunes. We have by now come to think of them just as they are. Old, gray and spent. It may be hard for us to look into the aged eyes and veined hands picturing them as they once were, cartwheeling across lawns of liberty and climbing trees to the sky.
This whole love-your-parents thing is often so out of sync. When — if — we pause to look at them, we or they are either too young or too old at the moment to be fully understood. And so it is so sadly true that we and they, child and parent, pass one another like ships in the night on a timeless sea. We try to signal one another. Sometimes it works. More often it doesn’t.
At least there is this comfort. Most of us out there are trying. Hopefully our own children will too.
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