It takes a village...


Niki Tehranchi
by Niki Tehranchi

I was reading in L.A. Times that Congress is considering expanding the Elder Justice Act and other provisions affecting seniors and long-term care.  The various organizations promoting this expansion complained that elder issues often are overlooked and don't get adequate funding from the state because they don't have a glamorous spokesperson like a Hollywood actress to put a face to the cause.  But I don't think the only reason is that Nicole Kidman or Sandra Bullock won't lend their "glamour" to this legislation. It is more deep-rooted than that.  I think for most of us, including the people who are going to have to vote on this, the issue of elder care raises such an uncomfortable feeling because it forces us to face not only our own mortality but also the quality of life when we come to the age when we start losing our independence and start having to rely on others to care for us.  It's a thought that we would all rather tuck away in the back back way way way back of our mind because it seems about as irrelevant to our day to day lives as the fact that the universe is expanding!

Last year, when hubby, Sweetpea and I were in between homes, I had the privilege and honor of living at my grandparents' home for four months.  This was after about 6-7 years of not having seen them.  I can't tell you what a treat it was to be so close to them.  And it was this living in close quarters with them that made me realize Hilary Clinton was only half right when she said it takes a village to raise a child.  The other side of the coin is that it takes a village to care for your elders too.  Luckily for my grandparents, they have 7 offspring and about a dozen grandkids, which all by themselves form a village of their own.  A day would not pass at my grandparents without 4 or 5 visits from the youngest to the elder of the tribe.  This could be to do major tasks, such as cleaning out the storage room, or spring cleaning their wardrobe, or putting in new tiles for the kitchen.  Or it could be something more low key such as wash and style my grandmother's hair, or take my grandpa out for some exercise.  Simply, it could be coming by with a box of shirni, making some steaming hot chai and opening up the backgammon board game for hours of furiously competitive playing.  The point is, my grandparents have so far been spared the most dreadful aspect of growing old which is isolation, and loneliness, which in turn bring on depression, and fear.

Though I am in an unusual position in that I am the only one of all the extended tribe to have some serious geographical distance hindering day to day interactions with my grandparents, I decided this cannot be an excuse anymore.  I really need to step up my game.  At the very least to make a yearly pilgrimage if not twice a year.  So off I am going, with hubby, SweetPea (and let's not forget the fourth passenger, my protruding belly) for a 5 hour flight during the horrendous Christmas New Year rush.  Yes, we will be the people that others point to secretly at the airport, crossing their fingers feverishly that they won't be seated next to us. 

The funny thing is I don't think I am doing this FOR my grandparents.  I am getting more in return than I could ever hope to give.  The love and warmth and education they have given to me and continue to give to me and will pass on to my kids is something so precious that anything I can bring to the table pales in comparison.  And a plane ride, with all its dard-o-sar, is simply not a worthy opponent in this situation.



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Dear Bijan thank you for your comment

by Niki Tehranchi on

I am sorry to hear that your beloved parents have passed on and I want to extend to you my deepest condolences.  I cannot imagine what life would be like without my mom, or without my grandparents.  In the holiday times is when I miss them the most and I realize how lucky I am they are but a plane ride away.  Wishing you and your family a joyful and fulfilling holiday surrounded by your loved ones. 

Bijan A M

I love you Niki

by Bijan A M on

I only hope that my grandkids turn like you. So sensitive, so caring and so understanding. Your blog meant a lot to me because I felt the same way about my parents. I felt guilty being so far away from them, but made sure that I go for a visit at least 4-5 times a year (crowded airport or not). They have now passed away (one 8 years ago and one last year) but the sensation is still alive.

I don’t have a grandchild but have always been apprehensive as what would my times look like when I’m not capable of caring for myself and my wife. I dream of having my grandkids around me to fill my days.

 Thanks for your post.