Here’s today’s time.
I actually shed a couple of tears this morning.
I was reading a book called “How To Focus” by Anthony Heston – and part of it covers health.
That got me onto googling ‘How To Take Care Of Your Health In Your 30s’ and it got me onto one of those ‘Things I Wish I Knew In My 30s’ type blogs.
I’ve written a couple of those listicle-style blogs in my 20s actually lol.
So anyway – one of the things that it got me onto was ‘treasuring the time you spend with your parents’ because one day – they’ll not be around anymore.
With this in mind – it’s important to treasure the time you have with them.
It upset me to read that.
Really upset me.
You know the kind of feeling you have of intense sadness that washes over you, and then it is gone some moments later. But in THOSE moments, it’s like an intense agony.
It’s weird to think about the passing of time and how it does reveal age, frailty, and decline in a way I’m more cognizant of than I have even been – specifically in the case of my parents.
It’s been a weird Christmas with Covid, and with my partner Strawberry in Italy and somewhat stuck there until the 16th January – and with lockdown in pretty much full effect – I decided to spend the holidays and the first part of this year with my parents.
It didn’t make much sense being on Fulham alone from the 20th through till the 16th – especially as I work from home, the cafes are closed and you’re not able to meet anyone other than outside your home – the flat felt sad and lonely.
It truly is people that make a home, and absent Strawberry and my cat Jenny – I decided to stay with my folks until things have eased up.
I’m 34 years old, 35 this year. Strawberry is due to turn 37 this month, and our parents are respectively in their 60s and 70s.
My mum has high cholesterol, gets leg pain at night, feet pain from standing up too much, has arthritis in her thumb, is heavily overweight, and at 63 is already suffering the kind of ailments you’d expect to see in someone maybe 10-12 years older than herself.
She takes painkillers to sleep sometimes and complains at least once a day about something hurting her.
It’s been several years since I’ve stayed with my parents for this period of time – and in this time I’ve got to know them and their routines that much better. My mum is a happy woman who has a lot of energy for life.
It’s only her body that’s now beginning to slow her down.
My dad, at 64, has officially retired and is the happiest he has ever been. Now it’s about maintaining a very healthy lifestyle he has admirably built for himself with such powerful daily routines of food, exercise, and prayer that he’s an inspiration even to me.
Now it’s about trying to solve long-standing problems such as his ongoing headache that I discovered during this stay has plagued him for more than 15 years.
I’m slowly chipping away at solving small problems they have which are really funny to see.
We have a weird (or perhaps very normal?) relationship.
I can stand on my own two feet but I guess when I come home to stay with my parents, and especially because I still don’t have my own children and a home to call my own – they see me as their little kid.
I don’t mind it, I used to be more resistant to it – but as I’m finally an adult now I recognise there is power in seeing some things in an unchanging way.
It does mean I get fed three times a day, do zero washing of clothes, do zero cooking and cleaning and my mum cooks me the things I ask…
Who wouldn’t love it?
And I laugh and tell my friends (and you!), who wouldn’t enjoy such a life.
It’s, of course, different from being in a balanced and empowering relationship with Strawberry where when it comes to household contribution – I am definitely not without my sins.
So being able to help my parents with what I consider to be ‘simple’ things in return gives me great joy. Buying their cat premium cat food because they don’t appreciate the distinction between ‘off the shelf’ products from Morrisons Vs specialist cat food that’s veterinary approved.
Or getting my dad some hair clippers because somehow the man has only wet shaved his entire life – and I want to show him there’s a more convenient way to cut hair.
Buying my mum a tablet so she can watch her morning exercise routine on a 10’1inch screen instead of a tiny iPhoneS.
Awakening my dad to the fact he can ‘Google’ to try and figure out things, and solve his own problems (he’s now trying out ‘yoga for headaches’ which he feels have reduced his headache up to 70%)
Paying for a podiatrist to see if she can help my mum with her painful feet – and lining up a personal trainer to visit my mum once a week to help her with her fitness journey (if you know my mum, don’t tell her about the last one lol – he’s not come over yet and she’ll give it a straight ‘no’ if she hears first).
So yeh, seeing their lives wind down – as my mum says she hopes she can ‘keep working until she drops’ because she’s so social – there worries about where they shall live when my mum retires, who will look after them, and their frustrations at all of their children living far away from each other.
Looking at Morality
Their mortality looms over them may more than mine loom over me. And that’s saying something because 2020 was the first year I began to think about longevity, what I wanted from my life now, and the fact that yes, I am growing older.
I’m no longer a ‘younger man’ – and my mind (as the blog I read mentioned) is about 10/15 years behind my body in terms of actual aging.
So my mind doesn’t realise my testosterone depleting, my energy levels dropping somewhat, my bone density beginning to decline year after year, no more room for new brain matter – and all the things associated with aging.
I wonder what this is like for them in their mind? I only see the comments they make to me about where they will retire, who will look after them, and what they will do.
It just sucks.
Having to think about all of these things.
Even writing this makes my stomach turn.
My best friend Luc went to Switzerland and France over the summer to see his family and told me what a horrible conversation he had with his father.
He didn’t say it, but I’m certain it bought him to tears more than once.
His dad is in his 70s, and has had heart bypass surgery as well as having a pacemaker installed and not too long ago had a heart attack.
Luc lives in Spain and his parents in Switzerland and he sees them maybe a few times a year.
He has also read stuff on death and aging, as growing old powerfully is something that’s very important to Luc – especially now he has two amazing young kids in his life.
And he has said from time to time –
Dude, it’s crazy, my parents have got maybe 10-20 years left of their lives – if they’re lucky more – but statistically that’s an improbability – and it’s crazy knowing that I’ve got maybe 10-20 summers or Christmas’ with them and then they’ll be gone.
When you realise stuff like that, it makes you treasure the time you do have left with them.
As we all get older, establish routines, slow down our learning, and the relative impact of ‘time passing’ speeds up….the years feel like they go by quickly.
When I was 20 years old, the idea of ‘a decade’ seemed an impossibly long time, and weird concept to wrap my head around.
Given I’d only been alive for 20 years, remembered fragments from around 5 years old onwards, and more intensively from maybe 11 (i.e around life events such as starting nursery/primary/secondary school), we were talking really about the concept of more than half of my memorable life.
Of course, 10 years feels far away.
Not the same at 34 for me, and no doubt not the same for Luc at 38.
10-20 summers no longer seems to be an impossibly long time. It IS something I can conceptualise now because I have so MUCH more remembered life in the memory bank.
And as Luc moved to Spain several years ago and gave up his life in London to grow old in Barcelona – the same thing can be said of our relationship.
He will see his parents more than me because of the effects of proximity and priority – us being countries apart and his parents (as with Strawberry’s parents and anyone) take priority over all friends – it means that maybe if he has 20 summers with his parents – him and I perhaps will have 12-15.
It’s even stranger to think that our most cherished time together has already come and gone and we didn’t even know it – when we spent a summer living together and traveling Europe and South America in 2014.
We talk of recreating some version of this when we speak sometimes, but practically it’s very unlikely to happen again.
Life gets in the way.
And so it reminds me of my check-in with Luc in the summer of 2020, when maybe 5-7 days had flown past and there was no contact between us – I checked in to see how his holiday to France to spend time with his parents had been.
‘Ah dude, it’s been really tough. I love seeing my parents, but as they grow older it gets very difficult to say goodbye, and I had a horrible conversation with my father, which I’ll tell you about when I’m back and settled in BCN’.
A day later, that day came and he said –
‘Yeh, basically my pops took me for a walk and said we needed to discuss putting all the family affairs in order when he passed away, to make sure all the children were taken care of’.
I’ve got tears in my eyes again just writing this. It’s really difficult to write something like that.
It’s a feeling of inconsolable pain. Of grievance. Of permanent loss. Like someone took something away from you.
I can’t imagine what having a conversation like that with your father must be like.
And I f*cking dread the day I have to have a similar conversation with my parents.
My grandparents on my mum’s side both passed away over the last 3 years. My grandad went first, and then my grandmother.
I remember both well.
My late grandfather came every year to spend time in the UK for a few months, before heading back to India to spend the rest of his time in his native country; my native country I guess.
And over the years I’ve seen him come back in poorer and poorer health until on his last couple of visits I sensed something was amiss.
His horrendous back pain, regular hospital visits, and inability to be in control of his own freedom killed him.
My grandfather was such an active man, who would come to London and then spend most of his day traveling, meeting, and speaking with people.
As he got older, sicker, and weaker – this became almost an impossibility. And more than once he said he was tired of it all.
So a couple of years back, maybe a week or so before he was due to head back to India, I decided it was important I record a video of him talking about his life.
No-one prompted me. It was just a feeling I had, that ‘now’ was the time.
I thought to myself ‘I don’t think you’ll be coming back to London again’. On that trip, I’d seen how unhappy he was as I was still living with my parents – and I wished that pain upon him no longer.
So he sat, I hit record, and asked him about his life.
What a life he’s had. He is the only reason my family is in the UK today. His journey was incredible and it became obvious how little of it had actually ever been captured by anybody.
He spoke for around an hour, and I then went on to record two shorter videos. I got maybe 90 minutes of footage altogether, and just uploaded it as unlisted YouTube content.
Whilst I was at it, I also decided a couple of days later to also get some content about my grandmother. Getting her to speak at any length at all about her upbringing though was impossible.
I’ve got less than 15 minutes of content with her.
Around 4 months later, my grandad passed away peacefully in India
Hey all – I’m coming back to this blog over a month later.
I never realised I ‘didn’t finish it’ (it’s what I’ve got written in my notes).
I’ve just re-read it and it’s dredged up all sorts of weird feelings.
I want to go and visit my folks now 😛
And here I am wondering what else (if anything) I’d like to add to this blog post.
I’m not sure – it feels finished to be……
Well, I guess there’s at least one thing – I’ll take it from there
Death As A Motivator For Life
One of the things that mortality does do for us…or at least it’s doing for me – is making me recognise how transient this life is.
So what that means – is it makes this now, the time we have – more important than ever.
So as Gary Vaynerchuck talks about – there is the whole space of making sure that you ‘document don’t create’.
‘Creation’ in some ways is artificial – it requires planning and premeditation – and an intentional response you’re looking for.
That’s how of course 90% of business is done and that’s the way it should remain.
When we’re talking about life, love and memories however – I think it needs to be different.
Maybe it needs to be like this – written as a stream of consciousness that reflects a memory being made live in the making.
I don’t know, I’m not sure.
What I do feel sure about though – is that life is definitely limited – and that as I said – time just goes faster than we think – and it’s important to maximise ALL of the time we have.
So I’m just pleased to be writing this blog really.
Even if a year passed and no-one read….
At some point, someone will – even if it’s those reading after I’m gone – that will help give these words life again.
Time will tell.
I’ll go see my parents this week.
I want to see them now.