Sunday, 9 May 2010

Candles in the cake

Age is an interesting thing. We long for it, come to hesitate about it, come to terms with it, and finally fear it. As children we want to grow older so that we may participate in the mysterious and seemingly important world of adults. As we enter adulthood, we begin to feel distaste towards growing old too soon. The realisation strikes as we suddenly no longer desire to be in the shoes of those older to us. Envy of the college and school “kids” while our parents assure us that 25 years is by no means too old! But there comes a point when for a while we come to terms with our age and begin to enjoy it without longing to be younger or longing to be older.

Kundera puts this interestingly in Laughable Loves. “Age weighs heavily on me. But I don’t feel it so much as I see my son grow.”  The character finds the pain of her fading youth outweighed by the joy of watching her son attain manhood. Joy in children, in people apart from us makes the fear of old age and impending death recede till it seems almost unreal. A time when we are thankful for what we are for it makes possible the joy of creation and the joy of watching a child grow and take shape.

Over the last week, I read two books that explored parenthood, albeit briefly, and the idea of aging in their own twisted ways – Sula and Laughable Loves. I find the point that Hannah makes in Sula interesting and enigmatic – We love our children. That does not mean we like them. I wonder how many parents make that distinction. Do they even think in terms of liking their children? Or do they just love them because they are their children?  Is it necessary to distinguish in between liking and loving children? I wonder...
In Laughable Loves, two women explore how motherhood has, in the one case, made her comfortable with her age, and in the other case deprived her of the memory of her youth and forced her to age in mind as well as in body. The one finds joy in watching her son grow, the other has decided to make herself old for her son finds himself unable to love a young mother. Reading this, I realised that I’ve never really thought of my parents as being young or old. In my mind they haven’t aged in the 24 years that I have known them. Yes, my father now has more grey hair than he did when I was a baby but in my mind there is no concept of age where my parents or grandparents are concerned. They seem so constant. I find it as hard to imagine my parents in old age as I find it to imagine their youth.

I wonder how I feel about my own age. Sometimes I think I am still a child in many ways, the passing of the years not having done much. Sometimes, I feel the change. As the youngest in the family, I find it impossible to think of myself as old, but then the number of the candles on the cake increase every year. 

1 comment:

rgc said...

I am glad I am old. I do what I want and don't need to listen to "elders".