The Privilege of Old Age

I haven’t written for a while as much has been happening in my life that’s left me more than a touch stressed and emotional.

Where to begin… My semi-estranged father has cancer, he developed secondaries and is now terminal – he is also paralysed in what he calls god’s little joke over the Easter weekend. He recently turned 81, an age neither of his parents reached and both died before I was born (three years and eight months respectively). Discovering his mother and grandmother died of breast cancer through a throwaway comment from my mother has added a layer of stress I did not need to have. As he has no siblings I have no idea of any personal risk to myself or nieces.

Weirdly I only saw my first pictures of his parents in the last month after my eldest brother took to scanning old slides my father had taken in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It was funny to finally see images of people that shared genes with, but I felt no connection to or reference point other than being my father’s parents. My brother also scanned slides of my father from fifty years ago, which included him posing with a mug of tea…I guess some things in the genes I never realised before! Those that have seen the few I have posted to social media have seen the physical resemblance between the two of us.

I am also dealing with my mother, who is waiting for a hip replacement operation (she is not in pain and is muscular) but is not quite prepared for how big an operation it is. Her worry is understandable but trying at times to out do my father for my emotion, ensuring I worry about her over him. It is hard being an empath when she is an emotional vampire and knows what she is doing as plays the victim like the narcissist she is. She turns 75 in August, retiring at the start of the year, but does not realise the people she often calls old are younger than she is! Her parents died when she was young, and have only heard snapshots of what either were like as people and never seen an image of either of them.

My father calls me the English one, and yes I have always felt more connection to England than Scotland. I am hoping to visit his home town this year to see the streets and places I know family lived to try understand part of me as feel I do not know where I belong or who I take after beyond much of my interests are similar to his. So many questions but realising that I will never have the answers. That is perhaps what is hitting me the hardest after our estrangements over the years, and feeling I never knew him as a person. I could not even tell you what his favourite colour, television show, or song is for example.

This makes me in turn wonder about both sets of grandparents – how they lived their lives, their interests and what they would make of the world today. As neither grandparent saw true old age it makes me wonder not only will my siblings and I see it, how different the world would be from the one I have seen many changes in my almost 40 years in another 40. The world feels like it is in such a mess right now I also wonder will there be anything left in 40 years time or would I recognise it as the one I grew up in. In one year I will be older than my father was when I was born. Makes me laugh when I explain the pre-internet world to younger people makes me feel like a dinosaur some days, but I am an old soul too that compounds things further.

Last Sunday I saw one of my mother’s best friends that has severe dementia in a care home, which has the worst reviews you can imagine…! I am the first to admit I cry easily but seeing a woman in her mid 80s reduced to a child with a television blaring whilst water and food were out of reach made me sad for her and angry at her daughter having known how badly she treated her. I felt like I was feeling the pain and loneliness of all the older people that have nobody. B is a gentle soul but nobody deserves to be left in the care of others that only work there due to the free parking (I joke not). It feels like we are so obsessed with youth that we do not want to consider the other end of the spectrum, and may yet end up living in a world like Logan’s Run.

Seeing B made me realise my sad reality, unable to have children with no financial savings or home of my own that there would be nobody to be there for me. Yes, I have close friends but would never expect anything of anyone, although I would be first to be there for them and help in any way I could. As for my siblings – my eldest brother is as useful as a chocolate teapot that’s been put in a microwave, the other is caught up with his with and daughters so rarely speak, and my sister is hardly part of my life.

The privilege of old age comes at a price, do I really want to pay it? Do we really want to live longer, or dare I say forever as the pay offs from here do not seem to be worth it. Almost an illusion like the one to look younger; surgery, needles and knives create masks but cannot change what’s going on inside our bodies…why have the face of a 35 year old when your body is that of a 70 year old!? Surely if we do achieve old age we should be proud to of it, an achievement like any other in our path. Respecting older people should be part of being human, but alas like so many things these days it is becoming less and less.

Tomorrow is always a whisper away that all too often we try to put off things until it comes but of course it never does come (or until we have no further option). If anything old age should tell us not to put things off and enjoy them while we can now. Life changes in the click of a finger, for better and worse, which is why living mindfully is so important. It is too short to have regrets or not taking opportunities. I may not be a risk taker but I’m learning to swim (not jump head first without looking or keeping my toes dipped in and out) and embrace what my life is all about…if I reach my 70s or 80s it will be a privilege I will be proud to have achieved.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Being a mother

As I write this on Mother’s Day around the world my social media feed is full of posts on people’s mums that have a special place in their hearts to their own children that mean the world to them.

There are group of people we rarely mention on Mother”s Day, those that have loved and lost a child, which causes a pain few can ever begin to imagine. I have also noticed few posts talk about non-biological mothers, the step to foster and adoptive mothers that come in and give the love to a child that is not biologically part of them but are still part of their hearts.

Being a mother is something very special that we often take that bond for granted. Not all mothers are best friends or understanding, some are abusive and hurt their children emotionally, mentally, and/or physically. Having a narcissistic mother that makes everything about her, controlling your every move, and hates when break free as you have done her wrong.

Yet what about those that are childless? Not everyone wants to have or is able to have one. I felt in my teens I would never have my own and now I know I probably won’t, not 100% by choice for my body says no. As for adoption it is certainly been a consideration in recent years, but I can only see me adopting a furry child that barks and woofs than one that speaks and walks as a human does.

Mother’s day is a privilege to have and share with either one we have given birth to or one we have taken into our hearts. However, please remember it’s not a day of joy for all, from those that have lost to those that are victims of their mother’s action. Equally, to those of us that may never understand that unique bond, we are not failures or freaks, we are loved as siblings to aunts and friends.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mother Nature’s Day

Mother Nature – Happy Mother’s Day!

I am sorry that many others see themselves as king or queen of this world you have given us. It makes me sad that think they can modify and destroy it by turning it into a world of fifty shades of grey, autotuned to our voice not yours. For a day without birdsong is like a night with no stars, a land with no trees is a soulless heart filled with envy and jealousy, and a world without nature is a cage with invisible bars.

Thank you for the multisensory experience you give me by living in and being part of this world; from the colours you paint for my eyes to see, the songs of life great and small for my ears to hear, the smells that tickle my nose that drift back and forth in the wind, the tastes of things sweet and sour that make my tastebuds dance, and to the shapes and textures that touch from my fingers to my deepest soul.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mother Nature

A Mother’s Day letter

The chances of me having a child that is biologically my own are very slim for many reasons, however inspired by Maya Angelo I have written a letter to the daughter I have never had to mark Mother’s Day.

To my dearest daughter,
You are the most special person I have ever held in my arms and will ever hold in my heart. There is no course for being a mother, no book, website or babysitting can really prepare you. For the nine months you grew inside me, feeling you grow, I thought of what of me was growing with you. The day you were born, I thought I would drown you with all my tears touching your little fingers and toes. I was so scared I would mess it up on day one that by two you may have been taken from me as though it had been some mistake that now had to be corrected by the universe, as I did not believe I was allowed to create, hold and care for someone so special forever and ever. I considered observing and asking how friends for advice along the way, from breast feeding to what school you should go to. In the end I did what I always do, weigh up my options but ultimately go with what feels right, trusting my instincts.

Every day you grow, asking more questions than even I asked at your age but like me you know an answer leads to yet more questions, which need time to consider,  thinking about what you have learnt and what you would like to learn about next. You paint with your words, brushes, and music, never forget that creativity is your self expression and does not matter that it is not understood by the masses or bring you in money, as long as it brings you happiness. Equally, your love and affection to me and others is beautiful beyond equal, but remember if someone truly loves you back it is a priceless gift so do not abuse or throw it away as though it were a tired old toy. There are many that will hurt you and put you into boxes, so embrace your individuality as much as what brings you connections with others. Blood and genes we may share, but the best thing I can give you is the freedom to be you.

Today is mother’s day, for me every day is mother’s day as I get to call you my daughter and I will never tire of hearing you call my name or seeing your smile from eyes to lips. I know how blessed and fortunate I am to have you in my life, for as long as we journey together and you continue after I am unplugged from the life matrix.

All my love and best wishes always,
Mum xxx

The Childcare Paradox

Why is it that a woman who chooses to stay at home to bring up her child it is seen as a “waste of time” instead of having a job, where the child is left in the care of others? “You’re throwing away your potential” cry some, how is wanting the best for a child throwing anything away, surely we are by being there when our child needs us most, being a true mother and not just the woman who gave birth to them. A child’s relationship with each parent is different and unique to that child, surely the influences of both matter?

We praise our teachers as they do so much and are often overstretched by doing increasingly more than teach, which should be the role of parent but is blamed on bad parenting for them having to do so. It’s almost like we cannot win, whatever we choose. A parent of either gender can act as teacher, nurse, counsellor, disciplinarian, storyteller, chef, etc. on one day alone, but does not get the same recognition or respect from others as chooses this as their vocation rather than a slave for money to others.

If we educate our children at home instead of mainstream schools there is also a stigma that some how they are failing to learn important life skills that being at school brings. Yet as life is all about learning new things and age is not a barrier to learning, why not use the world around us as a classroom rather than box in a child physically, mentally and emotionally. A child’s curiosity should be encouraged as much as their creativity, to develop who they are as individuals not what is interpreted they need to learn.

Is the family unit being destroyed like so many other things, another part of the ever crumbling cookie. We are told each generation is getting smarter, faster, better, when the reality is we’re getting stupider, slower, and sicker than our elders. The lack of respect some of the younger and older generation show each other is worrying too. Older people have the experience, knowledge and wisdom, the youth as want it all now and cannot wait for tomorrow, with the new adventures it will bring. 

© Fi S. J. Brown