when death is cheaper than living, and less embarrassing….

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I met a couple last week, married 68 years!

Sharing a little apartment in an assisted living community, they sat at the table in their tiny kitchen talking with me.

As we talk, I’m noticing how good looking they both still are, appreciating great bone structure in their 90-some year old faces. Is that weird? I wanted so badly to see a picture of them as newlyweds, they must have been blindingly attractive back then.

Now he’s scooping out raisins on their plates, and she’s crumpled in her chair, her body isn’t keeping up quite as well as her lovely face. She can’t see much anymore, can barely walk, they don’t like to leave the place because it’s just too much work.

They are funny, intelligent, and enjoy a bit of dark humor. She’s got a form of cancer, had some chemo for it. They tell me the doctor said she’d last for 2 more years. This was about 3 years ago. He’s laughing as he tells me how he went back to the doctor and asked why she was still alive… “you promised 2  years, not more!”

She laughs too, but tells me “it’s too expensive to live”, she’s serious. They feel like they’ve overstayed their welcome here… but don’t know how to make a graceful exit.

They aren’t the only ones, I hear this a lot.

Cute lady today, almost 100. Fought with her son about wanting to keep her own house, take care of herself, she didn’t need any help. He took the knobs off her stove because she left the water boiling once.

She is very neat, pretty too. bright blue eyes, and a flowered headband. So tidy and precise as we talk. She’s embarrassed that her son caught her in a moment of weakness. Embarrassed that she fell and had to crawl to the bathroom, trying to pull herself up on the toilet so she could stand again.

Almost bewildered to find herself in this predicament….

Sighing as she talks about how her son put his foot down, she’s not allowed to go back home. Planning to sell her house, not sure how much time she should plan for….

How does it feel to get to that point, when person feels like they should possibly apologize  for living too long?

How can we do this better??

 

 

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Role Reversal

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She wanted to talk to me.

She’s having trouble sleeping, but doesn’t want the kids to know. They already worry too  much about her. She doesn’t want to be a burden, already feels like she’s a burden.

Her daughter called her three times during our talk, our 20 minute visit.

They worry about her, they push her to do things for herself… walk more, exercise, socialize. But she’s tired of pushing herself.

She’s sad, and anxious, and not demented at all. She’s smart,  but her body can’t keep up with her mind.

When did the roles change?

Why do they make decisions for her? Why do they tell her what to do, when to do it, how to do it?

She always feels like she’s disappointing them. She can’t reach the goals they set. Her frailty frustrates her. She’s letting them down, they deserve better, she’s just in the way.

How can she stop feeling like a burden? How can she stop them from feeling like she’s their responsibility?

I’ll bet she can remember holding her chubby babies. Feeding, bathing, loving them. Nurturing them, raising them, watching them grow up as she grew old.

I see her. I SEE her. One day, I could be her.

My words don’t fix things, but she’s grateful for the time we spent. I can’t change how she feels, and I can’t make them feel like they don’t NEED to care for her. It’s out of love and the duty that comes with love.

But…it still sucks.

 

 

 

I used to be beautiful

young

Before kids…… courtesy of dreamstime.com

By the end of yesterday I seemed more aware for some reason of the amount of yelling I do each day. I don’t think anyone can hear me if my voice is not at least moderately raised, and each request must be repeated at least 5 times.

I remember attempting to lecture Sammy at the store about how his repetitive behavior and ignoring of my requests to stop were just going to hurt him in the long run…because I certainly wasn’t going to bother getting him the frozen sorbet treats we specifically came for. Thankfully they didn’t have them anyway so I couldn’t give in.

But it doesn’t matter. Every day, EVERY DAY….. they must test me. I’m pretty convinced it’s their only purpose for being here right now. They haven’t found a greater purpose yet, so will continue to poke away at my sanity until they find something better to do.

Sometime last night, getting them ready for bed…. I’m again lecturing about how tired I am of repeating myself, and repeating myself, and repeating myself…..

My eyes might have looked a little bit crazy. I could feel creases forming on my forehead… creases that were not there before…. and they felt like they were just getting really settled and comfortable in my now regular facial expression of crumpled brow and squinty eyes.

“Do you see this!!??”  I asked Sammy, pointing to my poor, worn out forehead. “I didn’t look like this before, 5 years ago I was beautiful!!”

He laughed.

And then Jenna said she refuses to play with me again until I kiss her and say I’m sorry.

And I’m just trying to hold my forehead from caving in all together.

funny grandma

after kids…….. courtesy of blogdesuperheroes.es

 

 

Old enough for a mammogram

Man on top of mountain.

It’s that time of year again….. time for me to take a look at where I’m standing on this hill.

Oh, look….. I’m at the top!!

What really brought it home for me was a conversation I had with my friend today. She’s a year older than me. Somehow she mentions the word “mammogram”. As in, she hasn’t had one yet and hey, why don’t we do it at the same time to kind of force each other to get it done….then go eat lunch or something.

Blink.

Mammogram???  You must be thinking of someone else. I’m still in my 30’s.

Talk to me in 10 days.

Out of the woodwork…

health.wyo.gov

health.wyo.gov

A patient was referred to hospice. He’s not in the process of dying right now, but end stage dementia……

Anyway, I’ve never seen visitors with him. This isn’t abnormal. There are very few residents who have frequent, regular visitors.

Suddenly, when the family decides to initiate hospice…. a FLURRY of visitors, over the past 2 days.

I happened across one such visitor today, standing in his room, watching him as he slept. She looked uncomfortable, lost, sad. He woke up, and she left soon after. Still quiet, looking ready to cry.

I wonder who she was? Family or friend, maybe his child or grand-child even.

I wonder if they will come back again, if he doesn’t pass away as soon as they seem to think he will?

I think it must be hard for people who don’t see dementia every day, to feel comfortable interacting with someone who is suffering from it. This may be why most residents have few visitors, people may think why bother coming, if they don’t know me anyway?

Most of these residents still have quality of life, even if they can’t remember where they are or what year it is. They participate in activities, get their hair done, sing songs, and even give advice. They make friends. They laugh, they cry, they still live. They enjoy human contact.  Few are so advanced in their dementia that they are no longer able to interact in a meaningful way….and even these residents deserve someone to hold their hand, or read to them.

There but for the grace of God…….

We don’t know what our future holds. Don’t be afraid of going to these places…..nursing homes, dementia units, whatever you call them. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. The greatest gift you can give is your time, isn’t it? Give a little now, you might need someone else’s later….

On getting older

old

 

When I was 29, I wrote what amounts to a blog post about getting older. Except I didn’t know what blogging was at that time, so I just typed it up on the computer and saved it. I think I was going to submit it to magazines, knowing the world would want my fresh perspective about how it feels to age from the standpoint of someone STILL IN THEIR 20’s.

Don’t worry. I just smacked myself.

There I was, worried about turning 30.  Stressing about the expression lines in my forehead and what department I should shop in, was I too old for Junior’s? God knows I was too young for Women’s….. and the waistbands there…….

I think back to that person I was. That young, silly girl really…..

She had NO idea. None. That girl, because certainly I didn’t feel I’d matured to the point of real womanhood yet, was so afraid of being 30. That girl wasted her entire 29th year in fear of what would happen upon turning 30. Guess what?

She lived.

I have settled comfortably into my 30’s, and finally found an acceptance of myself that I never had in my 20’s, or before.  Call me crazy, but I’ve liked my 30’s a lot more than any other age so far.

Why?

Because in some magical way, I’ve learned to care more about what I think about myself that what YOU think about me. Most of the time. I’m still critical of myself, but for my own sake, not anyone else’s. If I didn’t like something about myself 15 years ago, it was probably because I was worried it wasn’t good enough, didn’t look good enough for the approval of those around me. Now….when I want to cry about what having 4 kids has done to my body, it’s because I don’t like it….not because you may not. Get it?

And getting past 30, and then DEEP into the 30’s, gets you over the fear of being that age. Because every morning I still wake up, and when I look in the mirror I see the same face. Entering “full adulthood” hasn’t ravaged me. yet.

And when I think of turning 40….which is just a short year and 2 months away….. I’m not scared.

I wish I could have saved that girl I was from worrying and wasting a whole year, living in fear of a number she thought would define her in some horrible way. I would love for her to know how much better life gets when you become comfortable with yourself, and stop living in fear of losing your youth.

Now my sister is going to be 30. I remember being her age, looking ahead at what was surely going to be the start of “the end” for me….and being so jealous of her, at that time still so early into her 20’s. I was so sad for myself.

Now… I’m just happy for her. Because she’s going to find out what I already know.

At 30, things are just starting to get good.