Perched on high stools, wrangling Vietnamese rolls and dipping bowls of inky soy sauce, scattering sesame seeds with every bite, my friend and I share life over lunch—precarious, unpredictable and messy, but somehow satisfying. As we talk about ageing parents and maturing children (how odd that time’s passing dictates such different adjectives) our words begin to unravel the way things have been and to knit them anew, neither of us knowing what pattern to follow. I never was any good at knitting, so this process seems strangely familiar.
Change: Poised between generations—one slowly fading, the other blooming with promise—my friend and I are at once children and parents. But even as we talk about our own parents and parents-in-law, of illness, diminishing strength and new anxieties, we know our familial roles are no longer sharply defined, are already beginning to blur.
It’s a change we resist as much as they do, for they no more want to be treated as children than we want to take on parent-like responsibility for them. Their resistance is understandable to us: a quest to hold fast in the midst of a storm of loss. And we hope ours is to them, torn as we are between honouring them and wanting to protect them from the bone-chilling winds, bewildering fog and clinging drizzle that threaten to overwhelm.
Old patterns: But somehow the beauty, rhythm and intricacy of old patterns does not last. The children and grandchildren bring change and the patterns become less distinct. Woollen jumpers fade and stretch, wearing thin at the elbows and fraying at the hem—they’re familiar and comfortable but they no longer warm you as they once did. You treat them with more care and do what you can to help them last a little longer. You don’t want to say goodbye because you know you’ll never find another like it—the pattern’s been superseded. And so the unravelling begins.
As we wipe the soy sauce from our fingers and corral the wayward sesame seeds (will we always clean tables so instinctively, or will we one day forget how?), my friend and I are no closer to finding a new pattern for old yarn full of kinks and stained with years, but we’re familiar with the precarious, the unpredictable and the messy, and there’s something strangely comforting in that.
Featured image: Photo by CrazyVet | Flickr.com (Creative Commons licence)