Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Country for Old Men

I was helping a vendor at Scarborough faire at a booth last week-end. We touched on the cultural differences. It started with a discussion of relationships.

Russians come from multigenerational mentality. Close families. Idea of a family includes extended family with your grandmas and grandpas and your spouse's crazy uncle, who is a Polar Bear. It is your safety net and support, and in a way helps you identify who you are and where you came from. Dating someone, who has no experience with this could be difficult. Our parents generally went into a lot of trouble to raise us. Especially my generation with childhood and adolescence in turbulent 90s. As a result, you would never think to leave them behind, leave them alone in nursing home or to fend for themselves on pathetic pension.

The vendor asked me "why?".

I have never seen so many lonely people, who feel unwanted since childhood as I do in the US. I have never heard of so many people with horror stories about how their parents have treated them or seen so much coldness towards their children. Parents are portrayed as enemies in the media, and mothers as evil selfish witches. If all that is true, then it is just a reaction of people her to being unloved and unwanted. In contrast, in Russia motherhood in synonymous with self -sacrifice. It does not matter how old you are - your parents will be there for you. From childhood bruises and bumps to going into a war zone to bring a wounded child home. It was our Dads that taught us the truth of life, helped us with developing character and taught us to stand for something. It was our Moms that held us when we split  lips ice-skating or  had our first heart-break. It was grandmas, who would open their door to you any time of night and just pet your head until you go to sleep.  You just don't forget that. When the hand that rocked you and petted you is old and wrinkled, that's the time you hold on to them tight, not recoil, because now you give more than you take.

Coldness and indifference breeds coldness and indifference. People forget their children in schools and cars or bring home a wrong child. Some people tend to never grow up and resent their parents for making them  clean their room at the age of 12 or something similar and never mature past adolescent resentment.

When I was growing up, I saw how my parents took care of their parents and grandparents. Growing up in the same household with my grandparents I began to comprehend aging. As years went by, our roles changed and even reversed. It was happening before my eyes - the loss of mobility, hearing, confidence. All of it somehow fostered nurturing. It was like that in majority of families. Children were taught not only in school, but by the society to respect and nurture the old.  In that society (long destroyed by the 90s) leaving parents in the nursing home was a grave sin. It still is. In really hard cases the arrangements are made with nurses and sitters , but you are still involved in your old folks' life.  It is not all rosy and peachy. It is hard. Sleep depriving, nerve wrecking, tired-like-a-dog-hard. But so was raising us.

I still don't know how to answer this question. Just a few thoughts that popped into my head.

In the photo above a Grandmother is keeping her grandson's ears warm during military parade. No military regulations will stop her.

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