Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letters to a young man 33

As a man gets older, his parents' health starts to deteriorate. A knee or hip needs to be replaced, a shoulder is sprained by lifting something. Something which is heavy now, which wasn't yesterday. Bones grow fragile. Confident strides change to hesitant foot falls. Care wears heavier on their faces, despite the joy they have for life. Age is getting the better of them, making them feeble as death looms on the horizon. You see their end coming and know that yours is not far behind.

Fathers become weak and there is a point in every man's life when he realizes that his father can no longer take him. What was once a boyhood dream, of being able to take on the father and win, is now a reality—not a joyous one. The son becomes the protector, the caretaker, the steward, and shepherd, replacing his father. No longer able to rest easy on the assumption that 'dad will take care of it', a son soon realizes that he must take the reigns of the family. It's not that the father is decrepit, no, he is still a force. The family still defers to him. He is still the king alongside the mother, the queen. Yet, the unspoken truth is that the son has now assumed the throne and must take care of things. This is the mantle of responsibility and you soon learn how it feels. You understand how men seem care-worn under their family responsibilities.

This is what you've been practicing for and training for your whole life. At least for the last ten years or so. So now it is time for you to step into the role you were meant to play. Once the son, now the father, and now the steward of the family. Plans and decisions must be made. Difficult ones, those regarding health and death. As each day goes by you replace one individual care and aspiration for a family one. For every plan you have there may arise a family matter which needs attending. You resist at first, these changes will take time. Yet, you know eventually what waits as death looms.

So I advise you to take a look at what you are and what you're doing. Life rushes by. The cares you have today will be gone tomorrow. Even the aspirations of today may fade in time. Do not follow the herd off a cliff into an abyss. Your own voice tells you where to go. You see a snippet of your future in your parents' future, or at least a possible future. The regrets they have, for things done and not done, surround them at times. With any luck they will let go of them and live in the moment, the last moments they have being ticked off one by one each day.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.