Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Savages

Late at night, when everyone else in the house is asleep and I'm lying awake trying to get there, I do the math. And it scares me.

If I'm alive when my youngest son (now 5) is my current age, I'll be 81.

I've spent a significant portion of my professional career in nursing homes. I've seen the really bad ones, and I've spent time in the ones that are savvy enough to pretend to be safe and homey during visiting hours. I've carried out professional workshops and educational trainings to the staff of long-term facilities, and witnessed first hand the glazed-over eyes that come with people forced to sit and listen to something they don't care about, or that they don't believe in.

So, growing old --and needing cared for-- scares me.

It's tragic, when you think of it: we parents raise and care for our children until they become adults, then rely on them, many times later in life, to care for us.

What if we didn't teach them to care?

What happens if we parented our kids so poorly that they become emotionally distant, and selfish?

What sort of adults will our children become if we fail to teach our kids to appreciate and respect family?

The Savages answers those questions.

In my late-night fears about growing old and frail, I think I worry most about being processed.

Being forced to live in a facility that has visiting hours, or that has regulations about the types of cleaning solutions that can be used in day-to-day maintenance. I worry about eating from a menu I didn't create, and being fed by someone who has no investment in me as a person. And I struggle with worries about being cared for by people who not only don't know my life story, but who have no interest in learning it.

The Savages is a well written, wonderfully performed flick about two middle-aged siblings who are forced into shepherding their father through this end-of-life processing. The experience, although emotionally difficult, provides some insights that the relationships one builds over the years effects our quality of life throughout the lifespan.

Particularly near the end of life, when we may need people the most.

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