I felt his death coming for years
the way you can under
fluorescent lights in a library
with no windows, reading
some bright page, and gradually
feel the sky outside
invisibly cloud over. But I remember
those last few times before his fall
how they would be standing in the driveway
waving goodbye again, how they lit up
for a moment, suddenly not old but just
themselves, his arm around her, cheering us on,
cheering for life itself as we drove away.
We are all actually born to aging parents; we just don’t realize it until we ourselves have reached a certain age of awareness. As children and young adults things generally fit as they should, grandparents, then parents. One set seemingly always having been old and the other always our parents. Even when we hear stories of their youthful endeavors, it is as if it couldn’t have really been them. The rightful hierarchy in our minds has people ahead of us that will always be older, a buffer against our own mortality. Yet there comes a time when we can’t help but notice fewer people are ahead of us that fit that profile. Suddenly we are the parents of young children, then grown children and now are the elders of the community as our elders die. Though in fact, everyone has been aging all along, it just wasn’t as apparent until we leave behind the milestone birthdays of youth (5, 10, 16, 21) that we really grasp it. Maybe it is the first sign of illness, forgetfulness or slowness in their steps, perhaps it is our own work speeding up as theirs winds down. But we notice it and it gives us pause, in the busyness of living we are suddenly aware of the advancing years. And to look into our parents eyes is to glimpse of the terrain they are travelling, with no map, as we will too.