My old grandma – 我的老姥 – English

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Getting old is far less scary than feeling old. Although a deteriorating body is one sign of ageing, we are only truly old when we feel old. This is especially true for my grandma.

As the ancient saying goes, ‘Never forget the age of your elders, for it is both a cause for sorrow and joy.’ However over the last few years each time I go to see my grandma there has been more sorrow than joy. I can sense that she is getting old, and the ageing process seems to be accelerating. Perhaps I can sense this more acutely because I only get to go home once a year.

My grandma is in her early eighties, which doesn’t count as too old in this day and age. Regarding her physical condition, it’s really not that bad. Aside from her lungs having some inflammation, her legs not being so nimble, and her ears not so sharp, she doesn’t have any major ailment. However, everytime we talk, she lists off each and every problem with her body from top to bottom. She then shakes her head and frowns with a sigh, saying “When you’re old, there’s nothing that’s good anymore.”

After listening to her talk I am left with a thread of joy; at least her thought process is still very clear, as she can still talk accurately about her problems. Having been been brought up by her since I was young, of course I can understand her feeling of helplessness. So I try to comfort her. “You’re old, how could you not have any ailments?” We may not be in as good shape as some, but we are definitely better off than others. My grandma nods, but doesnt actually process my words. She certainly needs to find somebody to follow as role model. My grandpa, 90 this year, is more sturdy than she is. There are countless people around her suffering ailments all over; despite this, she always selectively overlooks the fact. A relative 10 years younger than her with severe chronic arthritis suffers miserably on overcast days. But they call up my grandma quite often and tell her to “shake it off.“

But my grandma is unable to do so. She says she’s old, but doesn’t accept so in her heart. She’s a strong person. In her student days she got into a key university on behalf of her excellent academics. Having been a rare caliber of student, after she started a job, her job performance was also outstanding, and her company would dispatch her to attend national technological seminars. Every time grandma speaks about those glory years, she can’t help but raise her thumbs up in a way that expresses her pride more than words could. Indeed, her bodily condition did become less ideal after retirement; she is incapable of facing the reality of her aging.

My family has thought about all kinds of ways to solve this problem. They did their utmost to persuade grandma to wear a hearing aid, but after bringing one home she resisted in wearing it. When communication barriers arose, she would decisively give up communicating, saying “Whatever you all say isn’t important.” Consequentially, grandma is locked up in her own world. My parents advise her to get a wheelchair, but because getting somebody to push is “too troublesome”, she resists. She locks herself up in the small space of her home. For each idea you have on the matter, she has a rebuttal. No solution is her solution.

Grandma is really old. But regardless of how advanced technology is, it’s not able to save an old person’s heart. And Grandma’s negative emotional state inevitably accelerates her aging process. Grandma is only one member in a legion of elderly people; youth like ourselves can’t put ourselves in their position to understand their pain. But undoubtedly, every one of us will have a day in which we join those ranks. In this aging society, it is worth our consideration for how to find a positive, optimistic mindset for coming to peace with this final phase of life.

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About Michael Broughton