"But I don't want to be dependent".
This is a phrase which I heard over and over again from older parishioners who were dealing with increasing physical limitations, but did not want to "be a burden" to their children, grandchildren, or dear friends.
Of course I would remind them that "once upon a time" their children (when young) had been very dependent on them, but although my reminders were historically true they were emotionally unhelpful.
The truth is that we all have been utterly dependent on other people since our births. We have always been dependent upon our parent/s, our siblings, our communities which provided schooling, public transportation, roads, street lights, gas, electricity, water etc. etc. etc. We took those dependencies for granted.
We cannot live without being dependent.
But being dependent in older years can be tough. It can make us feel less than worthwhile because we are not doing our bit. We also fear that increased dependency will lead to increasing isolation .
A case in point.
My pal Ben has decided that he should no longer drive. ( He has very weak eyesight due to macular degeneration, and he is all but totally deaf).
Well, maybe he did not "decide" (implying freedom of choice), maybe he finally submitted to the wisdom of the loving "nagging" by his friends and by his step-son.
Which ever is the truth we are all relieved and delighted that Ben will surrender his Driver's Licence and sell his car. (We know that as a driver he has become a danger to himself and to others).
And we his local pals (his step-son lives in Massachusetts) have assured Ben that we will be glad to drive him to his medical appointments, to the supermarkets, to the wine store, and to restaurants for dinner etc, etc. There are six of us and we will share in the joy of being present for Ben. (I drove him to and from hos Doctor's appointment today)
Good as this is, and gladly as we will do it, it is not perfect for Ben.
1. Unless we (his six friends) are utterly proactive, Ben will be "reduced" to the place of being a supplicant - i.e. having to ask us for favours.
2. Ben will be robbed of some of the privileges of spontaneity. No longer will he be able to jump into his car "on a whim" to visit a friend. No longer will he be able to drive to the local supermarket, pharmacy, post office etc. on the spur of the moment.
I write this because..
a) Maybe I was too glib when I talked to older parishioners about their increasing dependency.
b) I need to remind myself to initiate deeds of love and care, much more frequently than I merely respond to the needs of others.
c) These days will come to me. I hope that I will remember my own words.
d) I care for Ben and for my older friends.
DO NOT FORGET that whatever are the ways we can be a means of blessing to Ben, it is "simple enough" because we live in a urban centre with hundreds of doctors; scores of supermarkets; banks and post offices a-plenty.
REMEMBER THOSE who live in isolated rural areas where the services and stores which are important and vital to dependent elders are most often many miles away.