The Riddle of the Sphinx Amongst Wistful Memories
Four Legs in the Morning
Early in our lives we are in awe of them. We hang in rapt attention upon their answers to all of our questions in total acceptance as if gospel. In fairness to our parents we must remember that they are humans--and as such they are more like us than we care to consider. Any mis-step or failing that we have had, it is likely they also failed and tripped many of the same ways and included a certain unique subset of their own. We become disillusioned with our folks usually to the extent that our expectations are unrealistic. This is compounded by the necessary inclusion of a measure of hero-worship and respect incumbent in the parent-child relationship. Otherwise, few of us would have ever gone to bed on time nor attended class when other interests beckoned.
Two Legs in the Noon
But as time advances, the hero-worship tempers into a different kind of respect. Sometimes one wonders how the folks managed to get through it at all--especially at the time when you are wondering for yourself if you will be able to endure. So--from the vantage point of this male writer--instead of gazing at Father as "Superman," we begin to look at him as the experienced soldier who has marched into battle ahead of you and cleared a little of the path. Instead of seeing mother as linen-wrapped saint and healer of all boo-boos, she morphs into a defining reference point of wife and care-giver.
Three Legs in the Evening
Later still, as one reaches the dreaded middle ages, your parents' role can feel inverted. The world you live in--the technology, speed, and standards experienced in your halcyon days--can be estranged from them. You are called upon to help them understand the world because certain aspects of it have left them behind. But help them you do, in much the same way as they helped you when for you the world was new.
Further, by your forties you have had the opportunity to see your parents fail; and in their failing you have seen them both shine and fail miserably. You realize that they are just like you--or, more correctly--that you are just like them, but different. Respect remains to a degree, but that respect is more focused on specific accomplishments and attributes rather than on the whole. All vestiges of hero-worship have faded with the years, and you may find yourself reciting the moral and philosophical lessons to the generation that came before you as often as you do to the one that follows.
Tell Me Soon
What remains for us as we don our temporal and temporary mantles--as we take our parents position as the caretaker of the generations--as we find our faith, sometimes lose it, and then hopefully find it again--is love. Our love for them and their love for us.