The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a single female company worker in my mid-30s. I live with my grandmother, who is in her 80s, and my mother. I can’t accept the fact that my grandmother has almost lost her will to live.
I grew up in a fatherless family. Since I was a child, my grandmother took care of me in place of my mother. When I became an adult, she at last got her own time and started practicing ballroom dancing. She looked young and energetic. I really liked her that way.
Now, however, my grandmother has completely changed. She always says, “It’s tiring” when she does anything. She almost always stays at home, just looking outside without much interest. She has hearing difficulties due to her advanced age, which makes it difficult to communicate with her.
My grandmother, who used to be so vital and powerful, looks listless now. I can’t believe it. Seeing her this way makes me feel tired and even talk harshly to her.
She raised me with great affection, as if she were my own mother. Why can’t I be more kind to her? I blame and hate myself. How should I treat her?
D, Tochigi Prefecture
Dear Ms. D:
We feel sad to see our parents or grandparents become old and weak. This feeling can be stronger if you have good memories of them. When she was younger, your grandmother was very reliable, as she raised you in place of your mother. I understand how frustrated you feel by seeing the apathy your grandmother is currently showing. It’s a common feeling for a person to have toward an older family member, as they’ve shared their daily lives with each other.
I’m also showing my old age to my child. As I’m not always in good condition, my child often gets irritated enough to grumble. I can understand this feeling because I myself closely watched how my parents got old. It may be difficult for young people to tolerate their aging family members and their behavior.
However, I want to say this is just what young people should do as they mature. We have a phrase called funbetsu zakari, which refers to people at an age of wisdom, or those in their 30s to middle-age. You are a member of this group.
People in this age group should understand the idea of aging based on reason, not emotion. You should accept your grandmother’s advancing age as an unavoidable natural phenomenon. This is how human wisdom works.
Once people get old, they can never return to their prime, no matter how much they’re expected to do something. It’s no use scolding the elderly.
As a member of this older age group, I suggest we try not to complain a lot, but instead make efforts to look healthy and happy in our daily lives.
Keiko Higuchi, critic