By SHAKUNTHALA DEVI
I RECEIVED a message on my Friendster account the other day. It was one of those forwarded messages, the type I would usually scan briefly before hitting “delete”.
But this message, written in Bahasa Malaysia, started with a simple question that caught my attention. A rough translation of it goes like this:
“Have you ever watched your parents while they were asleep? Your father’s body, once big and strong but now, the big is withered and the strong is weaker. Wisps of grey peek out from his hair, wrinkles now “scar” his forehead and face.
“This man works hard every day and would sacrifice anything to make sure his family is provided for and his children get the best education possible.
“Or how about your mother, whose soft hands once cuddled and held you close when you were a baby? Now, those hands are dry and rough, bearing evidence of the challenges she faced just for us.
“This woman takes care of our daily needs, constantly nagging and scolding us because of her love for us. But sadly, we often misconstrue her love as control and unfairness.”
I have never thought of watching my parents while they slept. I’ve watched my cousins sleep when they were babies, all round and cuddly and sweet smelling. But watch my parents? No way!
But after reading this message, I realised that there was indeed much truth in it. In fact, my parents do not have to be asleep for me to realise that they have aged.
Just looking at my mother walk tells me that her legs are not as strong as they were before. Or hearing her ask me for help with that flowerpot in the garden, the one she used to be able to push and drag around the garden without my help.
Or watching my dad lift a 10kg bag of rice. I can easily carry that bag now. I am young. But to him, it is a struggle.
What do all these observations tell me? Yes, my parents have aged. They are ageing, just as I am ageing. But as I age towards my best years and become stronger, they in turn are becoming weaker. They were once the caregivers and I the receiver. In time, I know our roles will reverse. Like it or not, want it to or not, this is life.
I suppose I have always subconsciously thought that my parents would always be with me, never growing old. It took that message to make me realise that my parents are not immortal. That they, too, will one day leave the world and me. Until then, I will make good use of our time together.
By the way, I’m forwarding that message to all my family and friends to remind them to appreciate what they have now. It will not last.