Everyone in New England (including my family) is watching the Patriots win again but I’m writing a blog. I can’t get my Dad off my mind.
That’s because he’s lying in his hospital bed, breathing through a tube and slowly dying. This afternoon, he motioned for me to come closer so he could whisper a secret: “Getting old is horrible”. No doubt, I thought. But forever the challenging child, I told him that as far as I could tell, living to age 87 has been a pretty good ride.
It’s allowed him to watch 6 grandchildren grow up and even get to know and love a great grandson. He’s lived with the same woman whom he really has adored for 65 years. Very few of his friends and family have gotten this far.
And that’s when I realized that Dad does have it wrong — but not for the reason I kept giving him all these years when he’d tell me that secret over and over again. It’s not getting old that’s inheritently bad. It’s being sick and increasingly disabled and now in a near death state.
At 87, he has diabetes, congestive heart failure, his mind operates about 10% of the time and now he’s so sick we can’t get him well enough to go home to die.
Many years ago, in one of my last conversations with my grandmother, she said to me,”You can’t imagine how bad this is. I hope you never have to go through this (implying living to 90 years old).” She didn’t know I had MS, had lived with blindness for a brief time, been bedridden on several occasions and periodically lost control of my bodily functions. How could she know how easy it was to imagine her life. That I knew that her misery wasn’t confined to the elderly.
It seems to me that old people who have been healthy all their lives seem to think that bad health only happens to the old. But ask anyone who lives with debilitating chronic illness (that leaves you feeling like you’re 80 when you’re only 25) and they’ll tell you it’s blatantly not true. Bad health is age blind.
I feel sad for my Dad who was always one of the most positive and upbeat people I knew. By the time he got sick, he was too set in his ways to develop the muscles he needed to get through this with more grace and ease. He couldn’t adjust to this loss.
He always told me that I did a fantastic job dealing with illness. Maybe he was so proud of how I dealt with my physical challenges because he knew that he wouldn’t be able to do it himself.
How do your your aging/debilitated/ dying parents respond to poor health? How do you respond to them when you’re living with chronic illness?
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