My Elders

I’m going to see my grandparents tomorrow. It’s a long trip, 16 hours in a car with my family in what is likely to be extreme heat, and potentially also thunderstorms. Once we get there it will be some two weeks before we return. This is a huge trip for me, in-part because my living grandparents are becoming so elderly it shames me to write it, but it frightens me. It’s not that they frighten me. It’s the prospect of some day being that old myself, though both my grandmothers are quite sane and well for their ages, my living grandfather suffers from a hunching back that has forced him to use a walker and a nurse to help him with things. And I remember just a few years ago when he didn’t need either, so it makes me sad to see him with such problems. It’s natural, but it didn’t have to be this way. Maybe if he’d known he could have taken better care of himself… but I don’t really know.

The other problem I have with visiting the grandparents is also because I can’t keep my mind off the future when I see them, which is always a bad thing for me. I fixate on the future enough without a reminder of my inevitable aging and eventual death. I think my grandparents have always made me sad this way, even though they’ve always been kind to me. It’s not their fault, its mine for being afraid, yes afraid, of my elders.

I fear becoming like them, in a similar way that I fear becoming like my parents. And I fear both are inevitable, given time. Perhaps I fear these things because I don’t know how or why they happen. I don’t hate my parents or my grandparents. I simply want to live a life different from theirs. I suppose that too is inevitable in a way. But can I control the parts of my life that turn out similar to theirs and the parts that are different.

When I was a child my parents took my brothers (and later my sister) and I with them to many places. We went to Alaska by car. I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park and seen the Sydney Opera House from across the bay. We went to Malaysia as a family on our way back from Australia once. It was Chinese New Year and the streets were clogged with motorcycles weaving between the larger vehicles. Asian traffic is something to fear altogether different from aging, but I digress. The point is that I’ve been to many different places, but I never understood what made them better than the small Midwestern town that contains my home.

Yes, I’m glad I got to travel. Some of the places I’ve been have left very important impressions on me. I still don’t see what makes living in one place so rotten for many people I’ve never complained about living where I live. Perhaps this is because of my imagination or my introversion. Either way, I don’t see the need to travel great distances to ‘escape’ from my home, not like my brothers all seem to see at least. I don’t think this means I’m wiser than them, far from it in fact. I think it means I’ve given in to one similarity with my elders, or at least my grandparents, who have all been rooted in the same town out east for their whole lives.

My point–Because I have a point– is that I see time’s movement as inexorable and merciless. It’s not kind to anything, whether those things are nations or people or animals.

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One thought on “My Elders

  1. (this is Dylan Davis, one of the Davis twins)

    interesting thoughts. I am also nervous about visiting my grandparents on my dad’s side (never have been as close with grandparents on mom’s side, and grandfather on that side has passed). We’re also going to visit our dad’s parents in a few weeks, in Indiana. Only seeing my grandparents once per year always makes the changes seem more drastic. It’s been similar (although to a much lesser degree) with my parents. Even though I was going to school in Minneapolis the past four years (and still here) and I don’t live too far, I still don’t see them super often, so some of their “getting older” changes are kind of making me uneasy too.

    Those are some interesting thoughts about travel as well. I really enjoyed being in Ireland for 4.5 months and for the most part, I wouldn’t have changed anything. There are some courses I couldn’t take at my school in Minneapolis, though, because of that semester, which I sort of regret missing out on. I do not think I could live anywhere indefinitely that was further away from St. Peter than I am now (65 miles, an hour and a half drive). Career-wise, I know that many more connections can be made for artists in east coast/west coast cities. I would probably enjoy some aspects of life in NYC or LA, and I might be able to tolerate the “busy” lifestyle I’d be pressured into, if only because I’m younger.

    However, I don’t think I’d be able to leave my parents that far away and only see them once or twice a year (I doubt either they or I would be able to afford to travel to visit very often). As such, I’ve never once looked for steady career opportunities anywhere outside of Minnesota. I know of other people who will take any job, anywhere, and move to where it is. I am also surprised at how easily others seem to move very far away from their families and parents. I guess with my family, it’s just Dustin and I – our parents don’t have any other children – so that may be a factor (in my feeling bad about leaving them far away). I suppose I am fortunate that freelance illustration work – at least the way I create my art – can be done long-distance these days. Most steady/full-time jobs in the design or illustration fields, however, require you to be in person.

    (my reply is done for now – I couldn’t think of a way to clearly conclude it)

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