There is human reality to old age as a second childhood, a time of life that is not only stale, but also fresh, not only perched on the brink of death, but also full of possibilities and realizations. Some old people can shed the carapace of the social and the conventional, to emerge full of potentials, but retrospectively, with the creativity and playfulness of personal memory. This can enable new forms of intimacy at the edge of the ultimate. It is a rare passage, always shadowed by the frailty of the body, even as the first childhood is.

When we listen to our aged and infirm parents we hear them as lost and frightened children. This is true both in the sense that we experience ourselves as lost and frightened children as we listen to them and that we experience them as lost and frightened children as we listen to them. So the test of this extremely difficult passage is to be able to bear experiences of loss and fear on both sides.

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