“You’ve grown so tall!”
When I was young, I frequently heard this from distant relatives who hadn’t seen me for years. In my head, I often wanted to roll my eyes.
Now I’m the distant relative. Last weekend I visited my aunt and uncle. Their twin sons have grown up from a pair of geeky, quiet 12-year olds who always seem to prefer playing with their game console to a pair of 17-year olds ready to help their parents with chores. They’re still quiet but I can now detect a hint of their personalities.
They’re not the only ones who have grown in the last half dozen years. My parents seem old. I’m slowly coming to terms with how my parents no longer are their youthful selves. For instance, rather than walking purposefully, they seem to waddle or stutter step. They both take naps during the day despite not doing all that much.
My mom used to have an elephant’s memory and be able to hear things from quite a distance. Now, she carries around a notepad to catalogue what she needs to do and I find myself speaking a little more loudly for her benefit. My dad used to run 6 miles every 2-3 days on the beach and go the gym a few times a week. Now I’m the only one using the family’s gym membership. I’m happy that my habits have encouraged him to start exercising again.
Though not as glamorous as working in a prestigious job, I find that perhaps being nearby to help them out is my job.
Instead of programming the VCR for them, I’m updating them on the newer technologies. For instance, today I learned that my dad is still using Craigslist to advertise. Craigslist is so 2001! I explained how many start-ups have emerged to improve on Craigslist.
And yet, as someone who sees “middle-age” on the horizon, I’m not quick to dismiss their experience. Sure, things and methods may change but human behavior remains the same.
At 21, I left Southern California to take on the world. After all, my parents came to this country with nothing. Over several decades, they built something to be proud of. As their child, I’ve long felt that I had something to prove. So I left home to pursue my goals.
Seeing how their faces lit up when I returned from Ghana, I now know they don’t want me to leave for 10 years without coming home. I’m realizing that my parents didn’t work so hard so that I’d have to “reinvent the wheel.” Instead I’m learning to accept that I stand on their shoulders to — hopefully — achieve more. I’m lucky that San Diego is not a bad place to live in.