The Sixty-Year-Old Cleopatra, on Parent-Child Interactions


In these two years, all of my older classmates who’d lived abroad all returned back to their roots one by one.

Shu-Jen who married an American had sold her house in New Jersey, and moved in with her mother, with her husband, and entertained and accompanied her elderly mother.  Wan-Ling’s mother had been demented for many years, and lived with Wan-Ling’s unwed eldest sister, but, a while ago, her eldest sister who’s older now started having health troubles, Wang-Ling used the fact, that she didn’t have anything else to do after she’d retired from work in the States, to return to Taiwan with her daughter, to help out with the care of her own mother.

We are a group of former classmates who’d known one another for forty-seven years, although we’d lost track of one another for multiple decades from before, our friendships are just as tightly knit as it once was, especially these friends who’d returned back to the group from abroad, the members of our group became more and more, and, every couple of days, we’d used the name of catching up, to go out to dine together.  We’re approaching sixties now, and our kids are all grown and can all take care of themselves, we’d done our duties, and our parents are all in their elderly years, and we’d often talked on topics of the end of life, of accompanying our elders.

Wan-Ling told, that her days are with tear-filled laughter.  She’d taken her mother who’s demented to the doctors, the doctor asked her mother, how old she is, the mother opened up her eyes wide, “How can you be so rude, as to inquire the age of a woman?”, she and the doctor couldn’t help, but start smiling about it.  Once, she was helping her mother sort through those old photographs, and her mother denied, “I’m not even married yet, how can I have a husband?”

Wan-Ling’s father who’d passed away was ill at old age, and would commend her mother, and would often cuss her out, and she thought, that that part of her past was just too painful for her mother to recall and talk about, and she’d quietly, put those photos away, a short bit later, she’d heard gentle sobbing, “Ah, I do have a husband?  He’s really kind to me, and I can’t even remember him, I’m so sorry, so very sorry!” Wan-Ling’s heart wrenched as she’d heard, with the losses of her mother’s memories, she’d still recalled those better moments of her life.

Shu-Jen’s ninety-year-old mother is very healthy physically, it’s just that she’d often throw her temper tantrum, causing them to be troubled.  “For instance?”, we’d asked her.  Shu-Jen told, that one day, her mother got it into her head, that she wanted to watch “Cleopatra”.  She couldn’t even sit still, let along see clearly, how come she wanted to watch?  Shu-Jen’s eldest brother mumbled on, the mother was very displeased, Shu-Jen ran to the shop, got herself a wig that looked like Cleopatra’s, and started playing the part in front of her mother, made her mother laugh, and from time to time, her American husband would play the role of Caesar too, and her mother was even more entertained, in order to entertain her, there’s NO need to dress up flashy, a wig can do the trick just fine.

As we’d thought about the scenes, food almost came out of our noses, Wan-Ling said, she was going to copy Shu-Jen too, maybe, it could help her mother remember more.  The sixty-year-old Cleopatra has to take care of endless chores in the house, although she’s no longer young, with limited physical abilities, but she could use the collective imaginations, and win the wars by using her mind.

And so, this, is a way to interact with one’s elderly parents, they are looking for you, the younger generations to take the time, to accompany them more, and yet, how many of you, can say, that you took the time, to BE with your parents?  That’s very limited number of you, I’m guessing, because you are all, busying about your separate lives, without realizing, that your parents needed you to BE by their sides now…

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Filed under Coping Mechanisms, Dementia/Deterioration of the Mind, Family Matters, Life, Observations, Old Age, Perspectives, Properties of Life

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