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Just over a month ago, my family and I immigrated to Toronto, Canada, a city where we have no relatives except one: Aunt Rose, an 84-year-old lady who lives all by herself. Aunt Rose was kind enough to let us live with her until we settled down and found a place of our own. For three weeks, I lived with no Wifi, no proper air conditioning, and the T.V. was definitely not flat (or curved, for that matter). And yet somehow, I left at the end of the three weeks having learned much more than I had bargained for.
The first day we arrived at her condo, Aunt Rose laid out a lavish feast for us: chicken, pork, rice, sarma (a middle-eastern dish), hummus—everything that you would want after a long journey to Canada. I couldn't believe my ears when she said she had prepared it all, all by herself.
But of course, she was not an ordinary woman, after all. She was educated, was fluent in four languages, worked abroad for several years, and had traveled the world. Her home was like a museum: carpets, paintings, and decorations from Armenia, Egypt, China, Africa, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, and Canada. She had married at age 55, was highly independent, and because she had no children of her own, she had adopted two Armenian orphans and had aided them financially. She was part of many associations throughout her youth and even had dinner with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsian. I was amazed. I realized that I would be lucky to end up like her, and she was born in a much different age where opportunities weren't as ample as they are today.
She had several family albums, some pictures as old as the 1930s, and she would talk to me about her family for hours. She was my grandfather's first cousin, and I enjoyed seeing him in some of the pictures. I was surprised and touched to find myself in some of her pictures too, when I was only 2-years-old. It felt as though we had met each other in different lives, as though our souls were meant to have touched each other.
I soon discovered she had heart-failure, bone cancer, had an upcoming eye surgery, her hearing was failing her, and her itchy legs would keep her awake at night. I saw her take a handful of pills every day, all except for one, Aspirin, because it was causing her veins to explode and she had blue and purple stains all over her arms and legs, underneath her skin. I was furious and angry. I didn't comprehend how I could feel so strongly frustrated about all her ailments when clearly that is what is expected of a person her age. I started to read her Cancer book, trying to find what had caused her disease and maybe discover how it could be reverted. Were the doctors doing everything they could? Was there no other way?
It may be that it was her positivity about life that made me all the more puzzled. I realized that I would say "Ouch!" or "I'm tired!" more times than she ever would. I felt ashamed. And there is a 66 year difference between her and I. How this lady lived alone, no children, already widowed 20 years before, I couldn't comprehend. I started to leave the house less often so she wouldn't feel lonely. I would water her plants, sweep the floors, wash her dishes, and bring her water and fruits. She became like my baby, and I was determined to take care of her.
It was all too soon that we had to leave. My parents had found an appropriate home for us to move to. It was a painful reality. I couldn't look at her the last hour we were with her. It was too emotional for me. I knew that she had nothing to look forward to now that we were leaving. I bawled. I looked at the house. It was my home. I hadn't realized it, but I had grown accustomed to it. It was filled with her spirit.
It's been over a week. We visit her, and I'm glad to say I have made my first senior friend. I take things lightly now. I let go of my ego, all the ideals and expectations that have but a fleeting significance. No matter how much I strive for success, wealth, and beauty, the day will come when I will look just like Aunt Rose. And that is a great thing. For a long time, I viewed old people as alien and didn't feel associated to them. I've now realized that they are no different from me at all. They are, in fact, my future self, whether I like it or not. So I'm going to go enjoy my life while I can, and focus on the things that really matter.