Earlier this week my mother called to tell me that our neighbors’ neighbor had passed away. His name was Jan – John in English. We called him ‘uncle’, though he was not related. In fact we call all of our neighbors aunt – tante – and uncle – oom. Growing up in our village meant having a home in more than one house. Whenever my parents weren’t there or if something was the matter, we simply walked over to tante Thea (Jan’s late wife). Or we went to tante Fieny, who took us in, gave us soda and candy. And we played with their poodle Sonja. My parents still have close contact with her and I call her every year on her birthday. Whenever we visit my parents, I hop in at the neighbor’s to talk life over with her.
These days more and more people around me get sick or even die. A natural result of growing older, with friends and family growing older as well. My brother, sister and me are blessed because we still have our parents. They are in their seventies and have been married for over 51 years. Here is a picture from their 50th anniversary in 2009.
Apart from the physical effects, growing older has another consequence: we are approaching the last generation! At the age of 47, there is still a whole generation above me: parents, aunts and uncles. But the days are drawing closer when one by one, they will disappear from our visible life. And that saddens and frightens me. A friend of mine just lost her father and she now is part of the oldest generation herself. It feels strange, weird. She is now in fact an orphan, she said to me. Being an orphan normally is associated with children. You don’t think of a fifty year old as ‘an orphan’. But the feelings must be kind of the same. No more drinking tea, talking over the good old times. To feel safe in the knowledge that they have known you all of your life and accept you as you are. No more advice or finding a listening ear. No more security and protection, being someone’s child. But there will still be love from above. Always.
The roles in life will be turned and suddenly YOU are supposed to be the older and ‘wiser’ one to whom children and eventually grandchildren look up to. What they don’t know is that we are still a child inside ourselves! At least I am. Approaching the last generation… I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. So on this dreary day, I will be thankful for my Mom and Dad, for all my uncles and aunts – related or not. Thank you for being in my life all of this time. You mean the world to me.