They are old but they glow for us carers

Afternoon tea with my granny
I WAS awakened by my phone on Aug 24, with a friend's reaction to my article, "Carers of the elderly are the real heroes", published on this page that day.  However, his text message included a friendly jibe about my face in the photo. 
I replied saying that I wanted to show how well my 98-year-old granny looks as she's loved and cherished now.  This message was just the start of a series of calls, text messages and emails in response to the article.
But I was not the only one receiving feedback because one of the carers I mentioned in my article also received calls and reassuring comments.  She told me she was touched and reassured because many friends appreciated her sacrifices in her career and she hoped that my article would be an eye-opener to many.
Cousin Malcolm who lives in Sydney,
visiting granny in Johor Bahru in 2006
My cousin in Sydney emailed "Congratulations on your most poignant article. I am sure there are many who will relate to your article. To my mind, it is worthy of an in-depth sociological case study."  I don't know about his idea of a study but he's right that many can connect with it because they are also riding the crest of the silver tsunami.
Bong, whose parents live in Kuching, wrote from Perth, saying: "How apt an article. That's my struggle right now.  Thank God He's provided us with a lady who can drive, who's at my parents' house six days a week. 
I was back in Kuching on and off for the last year trying to sort these issues out.  Ultimately, I guess in their twilight years, someone needs to be there.  Right now, we're taking turns to be back every two months, with outside help being at the house six days a week."
Siok, who lives in Sydney, emailed: "Good on you for the article. There are many unsung heroes. As a carer, a lot depends on how you perceive the whole concept.  "You can either look at it as it's something you have to do, pay-back time or simply it's just a life-cycle. Accept it, and it's no more a chore. But I must admit it will be easier if the 'burden' is shared among siblings."
Sally, whom I met at a Rotary event recently, called to share her thoughts because she could relate to the sentiments expressed in my article.  She's caring for her 90-year-old father and accepts that it's a gift and not a chore.  I'm sure there are many like her and I take my hat off to these real heroes.
A lawyer friend waxed lyrical in his response. He texted: "Read your article about the elderly and reminded me about the lyrics of a song: You know old trees just grow stronger and rivers wider everyday, but old people, they just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say hello in there, Hello!"
People are often so wrapped up in their routines that they can't spare any time for the elderly, who are often left alone or with a paid helper.  It's a good reminder because it takes so little for us to spend time with them but it means a lot to them to have our attention.

My sister, Pearly [Right] visiting from the UK,
greeting granny while mum [Left] looks on
Mary's email from Britain said: "Excellent article!  Today, at exercise, one of the ladies there is going through a rough patch with her mother and I told the friend she wasn't alone.  We are all her support team.  We all go through that phase and there is always one child left to do it all.  Nowadays, we do talk about it openly, which is good therapy."

It's indeed therapeutic to talk, share tips and experiences and encourage each other on because it can be very taxing on carers who are tied down to a 24-hour, seven-day commitment.  So on a public holiday like the recent National Day, I went out with friends who are full-time carers, for a nice meal and retail therapy.

A guy, who moved from New York to Johor Baru to be with his dad recalled that he saw his dad care for his father-in-law who lived with them until his demise.  Likewise, I saw my mum's devotion to her mother and I invited granny to live with us after Ah Kong passed away. 
I often tease my dad, who I think holds the award for 'Best Son-in-law' because he welcomed his mother-in-law to live with us for almost 20 years.  Children learn by example and pick up habits and traits, both good and bad, from adults and their environment.  So our attitude towards the elderly plays a vital role in moulding the minds of our younger generation.

In his own way, Vincent D'Silva, an English lecturer who often uses my articles for his language classes, is doing his part because he used this article as a reference to give a writing assignment on the topic, "My Grandmother".

It's heartwarming to know that caring people in Johor Baru and the world over are not swamped by the silver tsunami but are encouraged as they continue celebrating our elders.  Finally, Gabriel's text succinctly summed it up with: "They may be old to some, but for me they are gold..."
This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 8 September 2010

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