On Watching Your Parents Age…

There are facts of life. Natural progressions that we all know are to come one day. I know that as I grow and come of age so do my parents. I always knew that they were to get older and so I’ve placed them in my future memories of growing old, but more of a wise and sage type old. They would be there with heads full of gray hair as my siblings and I marked grand occasions in life that are a part of adulthood. College graduation, engagements, marriage, grandchildren – continuing to guide the family that they helped build.

I thought I was ready for this – watching my parents age. I grew up with my grand and great-grandparents. I know what old age looks like. I know what to expect and somehow watching my Father age has been a frightening, anxiety inducing experience in my adult years. It’s like I blinked and suddenly there were wrinkles in his neck, his eyes have yellowed and his voice changed. That’s what is most harrowing, I could hear his age over the phone. Maybe it’s just something I took for granted, considering that Black don’t crack and I was so use to being surrounded by older people who never looked my age. My Father looks his age. To me he looks rather unhealthy, but my brother who lives with him, often dusts off my questioning and concerns as simple paranoia. But it’s there and I told my brother I was going to scream and shout about it while Dad is here, because I want him to stay here. I don’t want to have to re-write any of my future memories without him here because I won’t have any emotional concern if it comes to that with those who are screaming and shouting in despair when Dad is longer no here to hear them. You know my Father always said to give him flowers while he’s here, no use decorating a grave when he can’t smell the roses. So I’ve been throwing flowers at him, asking him to take better care of himself.

My family is Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the more conservative outputs of Christianity. They believe in the Resurrection, where those who have lived their life according to God will come back in the “new system of things”, a perfect world for God’s perfectly holy beings. They’re not the only sect of Christianity or religion in general to believe that and just to note, this is not a conversation on religion, nor am I dictating what one should believe. But I do want to exemplify what I believe is not so uncommon, especially amongst religious African-Americans. Where two cultures collide in that my Dad is both Southern, so sometimes slow to draw, while deeply steeped in the dogma of his religion. I think his Witness’ beliefs are sometimes are a cover-up for lazy hopelessness, in that he can put things off by saying that he’s ‘waiting for the new system of things.’ Life will be better, ‘in the new system of things.’ His sleep apnea is no big deal, because of the ‘new system of things’ that is to come. Never mind his refrigerator full of soda and juice or his diabetes, it will all be resolved in the ‘new system of things.’ And there’s nothing I can say about it, as I try to tell him that he’s not too old to pursue his talents. My Father is an amazing cook, he can build you a house, well versed in agriculture and just has a myriad of skills, that the patrons of his Kingdom Hall have no problem utilizing, as he strikes down any suggestion from me about turning his skills into, at the very least, a side source of income. You know, because ‘God has it under control.’ I believe He does, but that does mean that you do.

If I can’t financially take care of my Father, maybe I can at least help him find the resources to set himself up for retirement, rather than continuing to work a labor intensive job at 62. Nope, here comes ‘God’ again, He has it all figured out. I can’t argue with God, but under the guise of religious sympathies I wonder if my Father is even acknowledging any of his problems. Until recent times, many of the more conservative religions counseled against ‘secular therapy’ as ‘with God all things are done.’ Coupling that with the thought of most African Americans that therapy is just a thing of wealthy White people, my Father has never been one who was open to much discussion of mental health. I’ve dealt with mental illness. And while I do use prayer as a vehicle to secure my mental stability, you still have to acknowledge the problem first. And that is often the largest hurdle – recognizing and acknowledging that there is a problem, so that you and God can see it through. I often feel that my Father just uses ‘God’ as means to end the conversation, to avoid discussing or acknowledging the matter and it worries me to no end.

I’m talking in circles and I have no real end to this. It’s a lesson in patience and perseverance. Relenting in how little control I have and hoping that my random calls and texts will awaken my Father to how much he is loved, in the here and now – and how much he needs to take care of himself for the here and now. I don’t think my situation is particularly unique.  As many young adults shape their lives around providing for their families. Like being the first to graduate college, in hopes to seal the familial foundation, in thanks for their parents sacrifice in raising them.  I want to thank my parents too, I’m just scared I might not have enough time to.

Sleep well parents. Take care of yourselves. Don’t work so much overtime. Remember that there is no material pursuit that is more meaningful then your presence and knowledge in continuing to help your family grow.

Tags : emotional maturityparentsreligion

The author Jouelzy

Jouelzy is a #SmartBrownGirl, Author, Vlogger & Writer, addressing lifestyle issues that impact women of color from beauty, culture to technology. With 162k+ subscribers she's reshaping the image of women of color, who honor their right to revel in their diversity. Find her on Twitter Shop #SmartBrownGirl
  • Joy

    My head is spinning because my Mom and I had a talk about this just a few hours ago!!! This is something that has been heavy on my mind lately, and I am a Jehovah’s Witness. This is a hard process for us ‘Kids’ to go through and I feel your pain and frustration. I think the bottom line is that older people are stubborn and set in their ways (regardless of their fath). I sent you a message on your contact form. I hope everything works out for you and your family.

  • Tionna

    I actually feel that you are being a bit harsh. I’ve been one of your subscribers for a while now, and as I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses myself, I feel that you are being just a bit unfair. I have, especially in the past two years, lost more people than I care to mention, and on top of it I have been dealing with the very real fact of parental aging. My mother went blind when I was 15, and has extremely bad lungs as well, so every winter I cope with the thought that when she gets sick, as she always does, I may lose her. My father has high blood pressure and cholesterol, and is overweight, so I am constantly afraid of his having a heart attack or a stroke or something like that. My favorite uncle is dealing with prostate cancer. The way that your parents talk about paradise is not in an effort to act like their problems don’t exist. Its not a way of just ending the conversation. Its just their way of trying to help you see that they aren’t as worried about it as we, their children, are because they have faith and a strong belief that if something happens to them before this system ends, then they will be able to wake back up better than they ever were, in the prime of health. And they do get set in their ways. I wish my folks would do less too, and i have had numerous arguments, but at the end of the day, their doing what makes them happy, be it secular work, or field ministry, or working hard for others at the Kingdom Hall will help them live longer than if we just try to shut them away and make them sit down somewhere. Let them live how they want as long as they are able, and love them enough to accept that our belief in the resurrection and in a new earth is what makes it possible for us, and specifically our older ones to keep going. And thats the best possible thing, that they keep going.

  • Jessica

    Hello Joulzy.
    This is my fury time commenting on a blog (I don’t even comment on YouTube videos!!) I’m in London, UK and have been listening to you for a while now and I like ur bubbly personality. I am quite younger than you (well only 20 yrs old) and on my way to become one of Jehovah’s witnesses, my family rant witnesses, thetipi u spoke about got me thinking about my parents aging. Although I am not completely looking after my mummy and daddy, little by little my daily life evolves around them a little. Mum’s not getting too well, dad is just as bad. I’m at university and do a little job on the side of looking after MY cousins and sisters who live in our small house. Financially – I help with the expenses too. It’s difficult and I can not or in a way unable to beat the thought of caring fully for my mummy and daddy. It’s emotional and I do hope to hear from you soon. Xxx

  • Vinia

    Hi Jouelzy
    I have not been in your shoes but I totally understand your point. No matter what we believe, we should take care of our physical bodies. I would like you to please research on Jehova’s witnesses because i was one in the past until i really made my research and I came to realise that the doctrine is not right. I found out how they predicted the end of the world and it never came to pass and how the doctrine kept changing over the years, which should not be the case. I have spoken to my friends about the real gospel of salvation through recieving Jesus Christ as my saviour but they do not want to listen…they are afraid of doing research and their thinking is so narrow. I feel like some doctrine limits people’s thoughts and they will never think out of the box and use God as an excuse.

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