You are in a house full of toddlers. It is awash with toys, Lego bricks, helium balloons, and dolls. The little boys and girls sprawling across the floor on brightly decorated carpets. With dribbling mouths and sticky fingers, they fiddle away with their toys. Completely lost in a world of their own, a world with no cares. The adorable bundles of energy looking as peaceful as doves.


You are in a house full of elderly people. Let’s call them senior citizens, as a gesture of respect, because showing respect never broke anyone’s small toe. That, and also because our mothers’ raised us well. They did not shy away from some serious spanking if we rubbed them the wrong way. In fact, the discipline road that we were forced to take had a high bar. The bar was so high it makes me wonder if the kids we are busy raising now would ever measure up.
In fact, I think our generation of parents-mothers to be precise-were so gangster that they spanked us for even the remotest of reasons. The idea of turning a blind eye definitely did not exist. I think spanking was almost therapeutic for them.  At least for my mother, it was.

I once heard of a mother who forced her son to walk on a bed of coals. Hot coals! Imagine that! I know what you are thinking; if we could flip through the pages to the modern day, this treatment would very rightly call for intervention from the department of social services. And you know what, I totally agree.


Anyways… back to the senior citizens’ room. It is adorned with beautiful paintings of nature and flowers. They are the sort of pictures that make you come alive. There’s always something intriguing about them. The seniors’ lounge about, with hunched backs and big glasses. Most of them playing with their toys. Yes, we all have toys, theirs may not be dolls and legos. They are more like crossword puzzles, knitting needles, and books. Not kindles, but real, moldy-smelling books.

Suppose you sat down with one of them. Let’s call him Harry. You give him a pen and paper and asked him to draw a picture of three things. These three things would signify his 80-something-year-old life journey. That is, of course, assuming he can draw. I imagine that the picture would be a combination of several things.

Harry would probably draw a mountain, a flame, and a cave. He would then proceed to explain the symbols. The mountain would be the feather in his cap. It would make him smile. A smile so wide that it would accentuate the wrinkles on his face. The mountain would give him the most joy for it would epitomize his lifetime achievements. It would signify the children he raised and molded and who turned into decent human beings. It would stand for the success attained with his ambition for career excellence. The mountain would also be a representation of the quality of his life; happiness, fulfillment, health, and peace.

The flame would denote the peaks and valleys found along the rugged road of life. It would be the tragedies, misfortunes, loss, hardship and bad breaks. All the hard blows of life. Strangely enough, even as Harry talks about it he would appear unfazed. It would confuse you. But just for a minute because he would then explain that the purging from the flame was like heat treating steel – it had hardened and toughened his essence. ‘Not just that,’ Harry would say, ‘the flame unmasked a version of me that I never knew existed.’ You would sigh… Harry has given you an epiphany.
You would then prod him to continue the flow of analogies. Because you have somewhere else to be, right? And we all know that elderly people-ahem, senior citizens do not have deadlines (at least not the one you are thinking of). The kind I am talking about has to do with alarms and slot times.

And so he would delve into the metaphor of the cave. This would bring him a bit of sadness. You would see merely a glimpse, and he would quickly push it away. I guess it can be said that since Harry has lived long enough, he is well aware that crying over spilled milk is an exercise in futility. And no, there was no milk in the cave. Let’s get that clear.
You see, the contents in the cave remain a mystery, even for Harry. Do you now see why the flash of sadness? The cave contains the dreams and aspirations that escaped him. Things he wanted to do but procrastination stood in his way. It was all the places he would have loved to visit, but excuses stopped him. It signifies skills he should have honed but laziness pulled him behind.

Your lounging time with Harry comes to an abrupt end when the caretaker comes to give him his meds. You see, Harry has a condition called vascular dementia. ‘This shit is mean, it tends to mess with my brain’ Harry tells you.
At that precise moment, you are drawn back to the image of the room full of toddlers. You recall the little monsters, full of life, health, and a bright future. Then it dawns on you, that Harry was once such a toddler because such is the cycle of life.

With that sobering thought, you head for the door, because unlike Harry, you have places to be and things to do.