When I was a child, my parents seemed to know the answer to everything.
It was this upbringing, full of love even with all its flaws, which gave me a good start in life. They were far from perfect, but they were the best they could be in their situation, a mantra I have repeated over time. I realise everyone’s circumstances are different, but those were mine.
And for years, when we had an argument, they were right and I was wrong, and that was the way things were.
Years later, as an adult, I started having conversations that were not 100% honest. I would be hiding some bits of information from them, and a seismic shift occurred somewhere along the way. I was now becoming the adult in our relationship, and offering them a lighter version of my life, brushing my struggles and moments of darkness under the carpet.
As my parents got older and somewhat frailer, I became not only their youngest daughter but their confidante, listening to their worries and offering constructive advice. I was parenting the parents. I would tell my mum – you have no control over how others feel, but you can control how you react to events in your own life. Or, it is your responsibility as an adult to create a life for yourself that is giving and generous to others, but that also fulfils your soul’s needs.
My parents were imperfect role models and poor, but they gave me a special kind of inheritance. They gave me my temper, my fears, my impatience, my thirst for solitude, my questioning everything that needs to be questioned. All that, and so much more. And that thread connecting me to my childhood is still alive, invisible and unbroken.
Growing up is accepting that we are but a cog in the massive, never stopping wheel of life. We are a ship forever on course somewhere else. Our eyes are so fixated in the future that sometimes we do not see that the present, with all its challenges, is full of possibilities, ripe for the taking, if only we made the effort to turn our thoughts into actions.
And so many times I had to find how the air conditioning unit works, offer advice on what to ask the doctor, request that they look after their health like they mean to live for another decade or two, because the adult me cannot yet contemplate a future without them.
If we are lucky enough, parenting the parents is that mixed blessing waiting for us at the end of their Yellow Brick Road – tending a hand out and stopping the tide of loneliness in their final years in any way we can, regardless of the bittersweet flavour it may leave in our mouths.