I know this is a little late for Valentine’s Day, but it is a love story nonetheless.My father, the Old Man, has been taken out of his home by stretcher twice and my mother, the Crow, has been taken out once in the last three weeks. Thankfully they will be fine, but both have a long road of rehab and reality ahead of them, and they will fight it with all the emotional strength they can muster. But a time will come when they run out of unreasonableness, and will accept the present, and its ever increasing limitations.
But they still have each other, and they still have us. Being together and loving each other is what makes this bearable.
My mother the Crow actually fractured and dislocated her wing last week. Even though on the night before she told my sister she had no plans to take the garbage down the icy driveway. Even though same said sister was at the house and offered to take down the giant plastic barrel on wheels and the recycling tub that must be carried, never dragged, as its contents will spill everywhere. Even though, some sense of rebellion in my mother caused her to drag the garbage down her icy driveway in the early morning, with no cell phone in her pocket, no emergency medallion around her neck. My father slept that morning, with no idea that an hour later he would get up, look out his bedroom window and find his wife curled up and motionless in the driveway. Growing old is not easy. That’s what everybody says. I say growing old is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to see the person you love more than anything lying as still as death. Swallowing bile because you just want to fall down and die yourself. Heartbreaking because such a sight caused a 91-year-old man to have to scurry outside in bare feet on a cold winter morning, when he can’t even walk without wobbling. His adrenalin drove him down the stairs inside, outside and out to the spot where his love lay, writhing in pain and thinking her life was over. Upon seeing him she yelled in anger because a cut to those bare feet, on ice or a rock, would result in hemorrhaging, as the Coumadin in his system has thinned his blood, making bleeding a risk at all times. The makings of a grand love story.
While his feet were miraculously unharmed, my father’s emotions were totally rattled. He ended up back in the hospital after experiencing heaviness in his chest, with bronchitis that had gotten badly infected. His lack of interest in eating and drinking did not help. Forcing someone to eat and drink is a battle. If one knows that one must eat to stay healthy and alive, why not just do it? Seems simple enough.
My friend John said it best the other night, ‘It’s all emotion, no logic. And it only gets worse.” I took comfort in what sounds like a rather negative vision of the present and the future. My present and my future, as well as those of my family members, most notably the Crow and the Old Man. At least I am not alone in my angst over my parents aging and the decisions that accompany it.
I readily admit that I’ve been spoiled. So have my siblings. We have been blessed to have our parents for so long, and for them to be independent for so long. But last week we learned that those days are over, and while we have cared for them here and there in the past, it’s now time to give back without stripping them of their dignity. And it’s time for them to give up their pride. That’s when the logic leaves and the emotions dominate. Intense emotions that shadow every movement, every action, every attempt at escape.
The man next to my father in his hospital room was taking oxygen and steroid treatments for his emphysema. He said he visits twice a year for what he laughingly referred to as a lube job. He didn’t have any visitors. He called across the curtain to my father that he’s lucky to have so many people to take care of him. “You have a nice close Italian family. There’s nothing like it, “ he said. He recalled to us his four sisters who took care of him. I wondered where they were now, if he had anyone else to care for him. When I asked to borrow a chair so my mother and I could both sit with my father the man said to go ahead. “No one is coming here.”
Growing old can break your heart. Having people you love around to help you is a gift you receive to help make it bearable.
- Valentine the Lover (jmuwomensstudentcaucus.wordpress.com)
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