One month ago, my father had arthritis and a toothache at the same time. He lost his appetite and was indisposed to finish his meal. He moved painfully and soaked himself strongly with methyl salicylate. His smell of methyl salicylate was so strong that it could go into my room; I breathed it sleeping. Late at one night, in this smell of methyl salicylate, I had a dream. There I saw my body lying still and suppurating. I saw myself feel painful, impotent and scared. I awoke, and immediately thought about my grandpa in Vietnam.
I wondered if his clothes were warm enough for him to survive this harsh winter, if he was too old to live through another winter. Then I remembered what he had said to me, “Granddaughter, I’m old already, I don’t eat much, and I don’t need much. So, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. “ I regained my calmness for I knew I always believed in my grandpa; I believe that he will be fine. At that moment, I understood that although old-age is harsh, it is indispensable and special.
The old age stage has many challenges but it also has comparable rewards, especially for those who believe that this new stage of life is a new land to cultivate for greater happiness and life meaning. It seems that his body would be the first to tell a person that he is old. And it informs him in a totally unpleasant way. I still remember one day my mother said that she did not want to be old, sick and useless, and that she would hide a bottle of poison somewhere, and drink it when she was old enough.
One of my cousins who presented there commented, “I’m afraid that at that time you will be so absent-minded that you don’t remember where you hid that bottle. It made a good joke. Actually, I myself always feel unhappy whenever I am sick. I think about nothing other than my sick body, my pains, and my headache. I don’t care about anything or anybody else. I feel miserable; I just want to die. So I believe that life is not easy at all when we are old and suffer from all kinds of continuous physical as well mental ailments.
When one ages he may become farther away from establishing himself and nearer to losing his usefulness, at least in his own perception. As time gradually erases his attractiveness and mental quickness, he may find he is unable to have people appreciate the person he once was. A grandson would find his grandpa obsolete, having no idea about what he is undergoing, but he doesn’t know that the nice house, in which he lives, was built by his grandpa. A granddaughter would find her grandma aged, winkled up and doting, but she doesn’t realize that charm she has, she inherits it from her grandma.
One day the old man thinks he has fulfilled every duty in life; he is ready to rest, and to be appreciated for such a dutiful life he has lived. However, most of the time, people hardly recall his glorious past and show respect, rather, they see him a dull old man, apt to be boring and disturbing. The old man now feels neglected and disrespected; yet, he is too weak to protect himself. Another challenge of being elderly is the one that comes directly from the elderly themselves “the negative reactions toward the old-age. ” There are two starkly opposite reactions an elderly may have.
In one way, the old man mentally cannot accept the fact that he is already old, most of the advantages he once had have become past, or useless. Among them are health, wealth, fame and beauty. To illustrate, Malcolm Cowley in his “The View from 80 mentions avarice and vanity, as the vices of age. The avarice explains the old people’s desire to hoard as much money as possible because they consider money as power. Unfortunately, the chance they would use this power is rare. Similarly, the vanity explains the old people’s desire to be admired for the beauty or fame they once had, which is totally invisible now.
Living just to look back is so painful and devastating. On the other hand, there are the elderly who resign themselves to the drift of time. They let themselves become passive, stuffy and tired. They refuse to accept old-age as a new stage of life, rather, they refer it the beginning of wane and death. And when they choose to yield, these wane and death will come very soon. While time certainly takes away from us many important things; it gives back to us many comparably valuable things at the same time. The best among these are wisdom and calmness.
When a man is old, he is experienced enough to see the nature of facts, and deliberate enough to act righteously. It is believed that as our knowledge increases, the quality of our happiness will increase accordingly. After years of struggling, the old man is rewarded with his wisdom; and now he celebrates it in peace. That is desirable. Additionally, when a man is older, he is able to understand himself better. This self-understanding will set him free from every prejudice of the society. He comprehends his values and believes.
The boasters, the snobs, the flatterers, or the demagogues, none of them can bother him or distract him from enjoying his life. He does not have to ask anybody in order to know who he is. He knows himself so he is happy and safe. One question a man often asks himself is what the meaning of his life might be; the older he is, the nearer he gets to the answer. When he is young, he continuously chases after ambitions, one after one. He wins some times, loses some times, and learns lesson every time. Will he ever stop? No, and still no when he is old. However, things are different when he is old.
It is not that he stops having ambitions; it is that he is gentler with ambitions. Old man certainly has his wishes, like to live and die in dignity, or to be remembered by his beloved ones; and he pursues them gently and deliberately. This is because throughout the passage of time, and events he is more satisfied and thoughtful. Finally he has gained enough calm and wisdom to deeply perceive the meaning of his existence. When I was little, I by chance heard an old woman said, “I have to confess that I desire the beauty of young ladies, but if I am asked to exchange all that I have experienced in my life for that beauty, I have to refuse. Now I have lived my life for almost thirty years, I find I agree with her.
Every stage of life has its function and meaning; and all of them are worth appreciating and enjoying. I think that no matter how we are aged, we are still little children of the universe. There are so plenty of things out there to learn and to experience that 100 years cannot cover them all. Our bodies can be old by time, but let our soul be young forever. We come to this universe as a child, let’s leave it as a child.
Cowley, Malcolm. “The View from 80. The Prose Reader: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing. Flachmann. 8th edition. Saddle River: New Jersey, 2008. 71-79. Print.