This weekend we had a family reunion on my wife's sides. Three generations descended on cousins' houses for food, fun and filosophy. What became clear from this weekend was that we now have real perspective about life. I have now known my generation and the parents' generation for 25 years. We have shared a lot over that time, illnesses, divorce, death and successes. Besides some of the obvious physical changes, less hair and more weight, many of us are different people. Situations and comments that annoyed us in our early adult years don't seem to matter that much. Rivalries and competition has diminished. We have matured.
This empty nest period is a transitional time in our relationship with our aging parents. Our generation is taking charge and the 'rents, like our children, are asked to follow. We host the events, arrange the logistics, and give the direction. The torch has been passed. We also are assuming intervention responsibility. We weigh in on medical and maybe financial issues. Finally, we feel that our parents really respect our opinions and actively seek our guidance. This is additional responsibility, but also a strange feeling that we now have to lead the parents who raised us. Because the parents generation is approaching the final chapter, there is extra pressure not to make a mistake. There isn't room for recovery or a do over. I think we try to watch our words a little more carefully, be a little more sensitive to their frailties (yes, that means speaking slower and louder), and take a little more time to be available and around. There is also a special, enjoyable aspect of this stage. Reminiscing. Who other than your parents and siblings can you recall that incident 40 years ago and pretty much remember it the same way and laugh? We need to make a point to force those recollections and not save them for the shiva or wake periods. Good times can be created and that is also one of our responsibilities in spending time with the older generation.
The relationship with the cousins was also interesting to observe. As an outlaw (affection term for in law) I have known these people for 25 years. Over the years we would see each other occasionally during a year and catch-up on their lives directly or through one another. Many of us have kids the same age range so we compare notes, about our pride in their accomplishments and also disappointments in their set backs. In some cases their might be petty jealousies, Yet, we are all family and want the best for one another's offspring. There is less competition that we knew fifteen years ago. We have now settled into our status in life, taken peace in our status and accepted some disappointments. For some, the second time around, whether it is a new career or marriage, spawns hope and optimism. We are more inclined to commiserate about aches and pains rather than try to smash the tennis ball down the other's throat. Overall, there is more of an easiness being around one another than there was when we were getting to know one another and establish our roles in the extended family.
This was the first time we ever had a reunion like this and it really helped put life in perspective. Thank goodness most of us are healthy and we can appreciate life. It is nice to be able to enjoy one another and know a little peace. At this point, we can reflect back on years of memories, both privately and together.