Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Old Do I Feel?

How Old Do I Feel? (originally posted October 5, 2010)

At 89, Dad has lost much of his story to Alzheimer's. He lives in the moment, something usually only children are good at. At 90, Mom is Dad's sole caregiver. She carries the weight of past, present, and future ~ for both of them. Recently, to give herself a "day off" each week, Mom has taken Dad to an adult day care center. He greatly dislikes it there because he perceives other members as "patients," whom he doesn't fit in with.

Helping balance that tension will be a new challenge for my siblings and me, who want to help our parents stay in their home as long as possible. For the four of us kids, drawing nearer to our parents in this stage of their lives produces mixed emotions ~ joy in their companionship and love, sadness for their losses and difficulties, and our own progressive grief ~ another mixture of past, present, and future.

I thank the Lord for my parents' good health, but their situation is quite fragile, like watching America's Funniest Home Videos when a person's left foot is in one rowboat and his right foot is in another, and you just know the splits and a splash are coming. Both Mom and Dad dodder and tip, and if either lists to port or starboard a few degrees too far, it will be life-changing for all of us. And it won't be a funny video.

Often when I catch myself off-balance or forget what I ate for breakfast that morning, I see in my parents, myself 30 years from now. I think I've gotten slower than usual, too, just hanging around them. I know even a little elder care carries emotional weight, but it doesn't make sense that I myself would feel so much older. Yet I haven't been able to shake that feeling for more than a year.

... Until a few weeks ago when a retirement planning workshop presenter asked the audience if we felt younger than our age, our actual age, or older. Somehow, saying out loud that I have been feeling older than my age seemed to dissolve my emotional dowager's hump, and I became once again a reasonably healthy middle-aged woman walking tall with pep in my step. Just in time for the adventure of accompanying Dad to day care.

To be continued ...

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