Having “The conversation” in reverse

Okay it’s time for a flashback. It’s the early 1960’s. Your parents are struggling how to broach and discuss the subject of sex, human sexuality, and the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Everyone was uncomfortable and looking at their shoes. Every sentence begins with a long ‘uummmmmm’. By the way what exactly do the birds and the bees have to do with human sexuality anyway? Bottom Line: the conversation did not go well and it ended badly. Therefore I learned about sex from the two pinnacle icons of higher education also known as the school bus and the locker room.

Kids today have it so easy with the Internet. Not only can they learn more about sex than they would ever need to, they can now download it with 3-D graphics.

In most cases our children are the most important facets of our lives. I submit that the opposite is also true, that one’s parents are the most important persons in the lives of their children. This leads me to having ‘The Conversation’ in reverse.

As difficult and as challenging as it may be a parent to talk to an adolescent about sexuality, it may be equally as difficult for the now grown up adolescent to talk to his/her parents about another reality. The reality of what the parents would like to have happen when they pass away.

I suggest that there are several analogies that can be drawn from both puberty and aging.

Changes in one’s body

During puberty we knew something was going on with the onset of menstruation, unexplained erections, rapid growth rate, and strange emotions. With aging we experience hot flashes, loss of libido, bone deterioration and memory loss. In either case each of those elements are a signal that it’s time to have “The Conversation”. When we were young, the conversation is about growing up. When we are older, the conversation is about end-of-life planning.

The Pill(s)

Early in the 1960’s, the birth control pill came along and provided women a greater opportunity and freedom to control their own sexuality. The pill took condoms out of the birth control equation and fueled the sexual revolution of the next decade. It empowered women to stay single longer and enter the workplace vs. electing to be married and starting a family right away.

Now nearly 40 years later, Viagra and Cialis came on the market to help all the sexual revolution baby boomer generation men of the 60’s keep their dreams alive when sometimes their anatomy said no. Again each of these events were harbingers for having “The Conversation” regarding what is to come.

The Vocabulary

Way back when, the vocabulary of the conversation included knowing about sperm, vagina, orgasm, contraception, abortion, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Now the conversation entails being informed about life insurance, hot flashes, eldercare, medications, and having a living will.

Now it’s time for the kids to approach their parents about what should happen when…

But before they do that, it is important for them to take note and remember how uncomfortable and challenging it was when their parents, sometimes successfully sometimes not, tried to have “The Conversation’ about sex.

Take heart that even though the roles may be reversed, the rules remain unchanged when talking about end-of-life planning:

  • While the topic became challenging, failure to talk about it is not an option.
  • Like puberty, aging happens to all of us, just not the same time.
  • Never avoid a teachable moment to discuss with your loved ones what should happen when they pass away.
  • The conversation should not be an all-in-one lesson. Take the time to get it right.
  • Empower your loved ones to participate.
  • Ask, don’t tell.
  • Listen, don’t talk.
  • The conversation should probably start sooner than you think.
  • Just like you when you were little, your parents may be listening even though they appear not to be interested.

Remember end-of-life planning should not be just about them, it’s also about the family and friends they leave behind. Have the courage to have ‘the conversation’.

A perspective on aging by George Carlin

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids? If you’re less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions.
“How old are you?” “I’m four and a half!” You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half, going on five! That’s the key.

You get into your teens, now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. “How old are you?” “I’m gonna be 16!” You could be 13, but hey, you’re gonna be 16!

And then the greatest day of your life … you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!! But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There’s no fun now, you’re Just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed? You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it’s all slipping away.

Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone. But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn’t think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and
MAKE it to 60. You’ve built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it’s a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!
You get into your 80s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; and you REACH bedtime. And it doesn’t end there.
Into the 90s, you start going backwards; “I Was JUST 92.” Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. “I’m 100 and a half!” May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

  1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes
    age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay “them ”.
    Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
    3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s.
    4. Enjoy the simple things.
    5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
    6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
    7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
    8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
    9 Don’t take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.
    10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we
take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

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