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At an age when we mostly worry about their physical health, we might be overlooking our ageing parents’ emotional health that is crucial for their well-being.
I got a call from my dad today, and after the usual pleasantries he started recounting his joyous time in the terrace garden that he had started sometime back. He shared that a few native seeds I had given them during their visit to my place had been growing very well. They had been harvesting lady’s finger every few days and the bitter gourd was coming up well too. He explained how he had made a trellis for supporting the bottle gourd and other climbers.
Soon my dad put me on to my mom and after enquiring about kids, she started narrating the beauty of a rare hibiscus that had bloomed in the garden that day. She sounded so excited while vividly explaining the rarity of colour and structure of the flower in great detail. She was happy that her mallipoo (jasmine flowers) were blooming well too; she sounded a little upset about how she had accidently pulled away a few radishes thinking they were weeds as she had never grown them before, but stopped as soon as she realized it. She proudly told me that she makes herbal tea and juices with the herbs she grows in the garden. She also shared how both my dad and her had replaced their morning coffee for a green juice and how they feel great about it.
All this might sound like a regular affair for many of our retired ageing parents, but the reason I am particularly excited to share this is because it wasn’t like this always.
The initial years of living by themselves away from their grown kids who had their own families, was rather tough for them to handle. Having 3 kids and being busy with them for more than 25 years is not something that can be unlearned soon. Though we three siblings living in different cities always want them to spend more time with each of us, as with many independent parents, they weren’t comfortable with the idea of staying for more than a few days at our places. They always have a reason to rush back home; either an electricity bill needs to be paid immediately or some bank work or a health check-up, or some inane thing like the tenants need something fixed! Something, anything, just any excuse; probably because all of us are creatures of habit and we want to be in a familiar place, a home of our own, to feel comfortable.
Have we thought about what our lives would be like if our kids grow up and move out and suddenly we don’t have that most important job of parenting to do anymore? What would you do?
How would that change affect you? After being eternally busy with kids education, their jobs and their marriage and repeat the same with other kids you have, what does one do? What do you focus on now? How do you spend time in an empty house which was bustling with kids some years back? With the elder one out of the house, you would still have the younger ones to keep you busy but what happens after all of the little birdies leave the nest one after the other?
It is a difficult prospect to look at; everywhere you go all everyone talks about is how you are relieved of all your responsibilities and have now earned a comfortable retirement to enjoy with no care in the world.
But how does one do that? I guess that’s what our parents feel most of the times.
After being a parent for the major part of their lives, they tend to forget what it is to be just a couple anymore, I guess; And how to enjoy being a couple without shouldering the responsibility of active parenting. The discussion in point is being comfortable with each other as a couple in the absence of other important parts of your life such as children.
If I look back on the conversations with my parents a few years ago, I remember that they invariably turned into a conversation on how each one them is being so fussy and irritable. I would just end up as a referee most of the times, wondering why this was happening so frequently. And this is not about any serious issue…just inane arguments with the other half. I would get worried at times as to why they weren’t leading a peaceful life now that there were absolutely no worries plaguing them. I remember how as parents they had struggled most of the times to figure out a lot of things as middle class families often face, and I have seen them sacrifice quite a bit to make our lives better. So it was mind-boggling to see that they weren’t enjoying the financial freedom and stability now…
I mulled over it, advised, argued, cajoled and did everything I possibly could think of. My siblings and I would have long conversations regarding the same and wonder how it could be made better. I even told them to leave their independent house and move into an apartment for community living to enjoy more company and more lively interactions. Again being the old fashioned people they are, they couldn’t even think of leaving the house they had built. Understandable, yet, it didn’t leave me with any other solution.
I had told them about developing their hobbies as I knew my dad loves gardening and painting and my mom is a voracious reader. I tried many a-times in vain to convince them to set up a mini library and a small garden to no avail.
Then, I don’t know when and how exactly it happened but it was about the same time when I started work on my farm. As I started sharing pictures of my home grown vegetables with them, I guess somewhere the seeds for a slow and steady change got sowed and now it had started bearing fruit.
This just goes to prove that no matter how much financially secure and healthy you are, retirement time needs much more than that. It needs some involvement in a creative occupation to keep one happily busy; mentally and physically. I was finally happy to see my parents enjoying their retirement! They had found their creative occupation. They spent their mornings finishing up their quota of morning walk, tending to the garden and picking vegetables for the day’s meal and evenings are spent again in the terrace garden picking flowers for the evening pooja and watering the plants and doing the evening rounds in the terrace.
Creative occupation could be anything; – gardening, travelling, reading, social outings, spiritual gathering, volunteering, tutoring kids or anything else, but something is definitely needed to keep one engaged and fulfilled during those golden years.
Are your parents creatively occupied? Do share your thoughts…Would love to hear from you on how they keep themselves engaged.
Published here earlier.
Image source: Kalpana Manivannan
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A mother of two amazing kids and a teacher by profession, I have varied interests.
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