I saw it the other night at dinner in LA. when I looked around the table. It wasn’t very noticeable, but I noticed: how solicitous my nephews are with their mom, H’s sister–the same way she’s always been with them. It’s just an awareness —a consciousness of her comfort—tuning their radar to her frequency.
Of course she still worries about them. Parents grow older, but they don’t seem to outgrow that. Still, family dynamics change, when kids start worrying about their parents, too. It’s a sign that signals the shift of the generations.
Typically this change moves at a glacial pace; but sometimes it can happen in an instant.
In our family, my mother was long gone, and my father was the rock of ages. Ageless. Independent. Indestructible. He didn’t just take care of his own 3 kids; he took care of everyone. If I worried about his state of mind like Daniel does about mine, I don’t remember it.
I do remember the moment when it all changed. It hit me full force, like the full force of the collision that capapulted my father over the handlebars of the bike he was riding. Don’t even ask why I thought it was reasonable for a 77-year-old man who was a terrible driver even in a car—to steer a rented bike among bikers and skaters along the crowded bike path on Venice beach.
Fortunately he was part bionic—and suffered no broken bones or bruises—but a very badly split lip. It wasn’t the injury itself which we had stitched by a plastic surgeon friend later that day. It was the sudden realization that struck me harder than my dad struck the pavement. He was human, vulnerable, and he was getting older. And at some point in the not too distant future we would switch roles and he would no longer be capable of taking care of me and my brother and sister—instead WE would take care of him. From that moment, the world between us shifted permanently. Just another part of the constantly changing circle of life.
Though I’m now the oldest member of my side of our family, I think I’ve got awhile before we’ll be shifting gears. Meanwhile, I’m still on the bike, pedaling as fast as I can.