Handle with Care
COVID-19 has led me to observe a new intergenerational behaviour: many adult children, some close and some from far away, are panicking about the welfare of their parents in a manner their parents have never experienced before.
Advice, even insistent ‘demands’ are relayed about 'stay home', 'don't go to the supermarket' and 'don’t mix'.
I am the first to admit that I live in a country that has so far, navigated COVID-19 reasonably successfully, and we are gingerly taking baby steps to find a new normal. I also acknowledge that other parts of the world are seriously alarming, and I totally understand that everyone needs to be exceedingly cautious. It is completely natural for family members to be anxious about one another.
My concern, however, is that seniors, everywhere have acquired a new label they never asked for: ‘Handle with care’.
My question is: will they ever lose it? Will seniors be allowed to go back to making their own decisions, and not being dictated to? Will their children give them slack and allow them to be independent again?
I was amused to read an article about a senior New Zealander who is currently ‘trapped’ in New Zealand, and for logistical reasons still unable to repatriate to his home in Vanuatu. He is safe, in good hands and accepting of his current lot. His most animated comment was:
"The only thing that really gets me annoyed, is the reference to the elderly, I'm 73 years old. And when I hear people talking about the elderly as if we're an infirm group I really get p***ed off, sorry about the language. I work all the time."
I am blessed that my mother lives 10 minutes’ drive away in a retirement village. Pre-COVID-19 we would chat by phone, maybe once a week and we often joked about families who rang each other every day. We both said we were too busy for that. However, with lockdown I video called Mum every day. She would relay the comings and goings of the village and she commented that many residents were ‘dealing with’ panicking children - for them, as much a challenge as COVID-19. One day Mum said to me "Thank you for not telling me what to do".
The word 'journey' is so overused. Thesaurus.com offers adventure, odyssey, wandering and campaign. They all have a place as I write my first ever blog, but somehow' journey' still surfaces to the top.
I would love to break this narrative mould but it has been a journey and I never would have imagined, even a few years ago that I would one day naively and boldly announce I am writing three books, when I have never published anything before.
Initially, I intended to write only about Distance Grandparenting, because that is what I intimately know. But there are two sides to every story and distance familying is an inter-generational global phenomenon. Each generation has their way of viewing life and experiencing their worlds, and I passionately believe these understandings need to be shared. It can only do good. Thus the reason for a three-book series. The books will not be How to publications. They will talk about How it is.
And just to add an unexpected roadblock to this journey COVID-19 has made itself an unwelcome hitchhiker. It was neither part of your plans, nor mine and distance familying is hugely impacted. Right now, none of us knows when we will next be in the physical presence of our distance family. Now more than ever, distance families deserve a voice.
Please join me in this project and share your stories now. Story examples are available here.
Lastly, "what's with the fruit photo?" you ask. A lasting and grateful memory of lockdown has been the autumnal bountiful giving of our Southern Hemisphere-friendly feijoa tree. Every day, without fail, a handful of its green, oval-shaped fruit has fallen to the ground saying “pick me up”.
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