Friday, December 22, 2006

Growing Old

A loud television was showing an old Christmas movie from over fifty years ago. The entertainers were young, healthy dancers dressed in costumes that showed smooth tight skin. The audience with wrinkled skin sat with drooping faces in concentric semi-circles of wheelchairs. They sat motionless without expressions of happiness, pain, contentment, anger, joy or recognition.

I walked into the room as Julie, Gale and Leon waited in the hallway. She noticed me as I approached her and a smile spread across her face. It a smile that I remember from almost sixty years ago and it appeared to be a smile of recognition. “Hi, Mom! Do you remember me?” When my sister came in she asked “Mom, who is this?” “Daddy” was the reply. There was some recognition.

Sometimes she calls my sister “mommy” and sometimes “my baby” but often the one or two words of communication leave one uncertain. “Are you cold?” may elicit a “no” when shivering says otherwise. A few times she spoke in full sentences with voice inflection and a rhythm that sounded like a practiced language but the sounds were unintelligible gibberish.

Of all the nursing homes that I’ve visited, this is the best. There’s no smell of urine and the decorations appear more like an upscale hotel rather than an institution. My sister found the new facility about five years ago. It’s located about five miles from her house which makes it convenient. She’s an RN and works per deim a few days each week which enables her to visit and monitor Mom and the care she receives.

I sat there and attempted to talk without asking questions. She has met Julie multiple times. They first met about seven years ago when she was still living independently and alone at home. I reintroduced Julie and explained that we are married.

I held her hand and looked at the deep blue veins that showed through the thin white parchment-like skin on the back of her hands. It was a hand that held mine years ago as we crossed streets and walked into school for the first time. It was a hand that I learned to dodge when I angered her. It was a hand that made an annual fruit cake which was the only Christmas gift that I anticipated for years.

It wasn’t a sad visit. Life is what we make of it. Hopefully, one morning soon, the phone will ring and the caller will say the wait is over.

Experiences like this cause me to reaffirm my determination to pack much living into my uncertain years. I’ll not wait to retire to enjoy life. I’ll not face the future with fear but with anticipation.

Old age can be a slow methodical thief but I plan on giving the bastard a challenge and denying him the ultimate win.


Blogger Buffalo said...

This deeply touched me.

12/22/2006 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Yes, I think it best to burn out, than fade away.....

12/22/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Yup! Seize the day!

12/22/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

Tis the season to be grateful!

Brilliantly put.

12/22/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I dropped by to wish you a Merry Christmas and to thank you for being a blogging buddy.

12/24/2006 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

Merry Christmas Digger!

12/25/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Melody said...

Write these memories down and any you have from the past. They are precious and should be remembered forever by someone.

I can say this because I meant to and waited too long.

12/25/2006 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I went and visited my Alzheimer's stricken stepfather at his nursing home when I visited my mom in Utah. We actually got to take him out with us and show him the new house.
He seemed to recognize me and called my mom by name twice.

This is a man who just a few years ago was an extremely gifted machinist, welder and tool & die maker, who once built formula Indy race cars from the ground up.

When I showed him some of the miniature tools he had made he got a gleam in his eyes and said, "I made these you know, see how this knob turns."

I very much enjoyed the day we spent with him while thinking about all the things he taught me, including how to drive.

I empathize with you Paul, it's tough seeing a once vibrant loved one fading away.

Cherish every moment...

12/26/2006 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Dragonfly Shaman said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I hope my children embrace my last years with peace and clarity, as you do your mother's. No fear. Shanti.

12/27/2006 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

this is both a moving and an uplifting post!

12/31/2006 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

My grandparents are a few years older than you: I remember as they turned sixty, thinking, wow, that's old! (I was maybe ten at the time) Now that my parents are each beyond fifty, I don't even think that seventy is old, because both my grandparents are so youthful, still active and involved. From what I've read here, I've no doubt that you'll stay just as young for quite some years to come.

1/03/2007 11:20:00 AM  

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