Saturday, April 12, 2014

The care and handling of aging

Okay, I will just admit it right here and now.

I am afraid of getting old. Not fear..as in..the way that I am terrified of spiders or horses (yes, horse lovers, I have disappointed you now, yes? I am not necessarily afraid of horses per se, but of their heads, it's an odd fear, I know...but my own...) but leery. Very leery.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep at 78, 79, maybe 80.

Doesn't everyone?

I just don't want to be infirm. Dependent on someone else to take me to the toilet, or worse...change my diaper. I have already arranged to set aside money every month for the express purpose of either hiring a home health aide or going into a nice nursing home if it comes to that. I do NOT want my daughter to feel that she must take me in and nurse me if I become unable to take care of myself. The thought of Liv wiping my ass makes me ill. She and I have never discussed this and hopefully, never will.

I believe that I will outlive Bing. Not because I am healthier, but because I am not. It always goes that way, you know? With couples. The one who dies first always seems to be the one who was more robust. Of the two of us, Bing is by far the healthier. She has no major illnesses, as I do. She eats very healthily, we have meat maybe twice a week at the most. She rarely craves sweets or salt, while I, the type 1 diabetic, PINE for oreos. I am so jealous that she could sit down and eat a whole package of them while I can only eat one occasionally. If I told her this, she would be puzzled. I can see her saying, "Why would anyone WANT to eat a package of oreos? God, even one makes me feel sick." She gets cravings for ice cream occasionally and it is always around the first of the month, when she used to have her period. Another way that she is healthier than me. Her periods were always like clockwork. They would come on the first or second of the month. Mine were helter skelter. I would sometimes go for 19 days between periods, other times 42 days, sometimes I would miss a month entirely. Liv has not inherited this and I am glad. It was as if my body itself was just lackadaisical.

Hmmm. Feel like having a period this month? Let's see...ok. How about Monday? No? Well, why don't we just skip it altogether?

It is absolutely amazing to me that I was able to conceive a child at all.

Bing jogs every morning before she leaves for school unless it is raining hard or we are in the midst of a blizzard. She takes Socks with her and he loves it. She goes to the gym at least 5 times a week and swims laps. I don't run unless the house is on fire and I go to the gym about 3 times a week with her, but I just walk the track. It's all my RA will allow. I have a left knee that is inclined to blow up to the size of a grapefruit about three times a year. I also have such stiffness in my hands that Bing sits on the edge of the bed every morning before she leaves for school and rubs them for me. She makes a joke of it, says, "Okay, beastie, hand me your claws."

I get migraines about once a month. I have Meniere's syndrome that occasionally rears it's vertigo head. I am blind as a bat without my glasses and I inherited the bad teeth of my parents. I have 7 caps.

Bing had some back problems a couple of years ago that slowed her down for a few months, but she diligently did her physical therapy and is now back to normal. I occasionally need to use a cane when my RA is flaring and my joints ache so badly that walking is painful.

Of the two of us, you would pick Bing to be the one to live til she was 98. But, no. She will die before me. It is just the way these things happen. As my sainted Irish Mother used to say, "God loves a good joke."

So, it will be me left on my own. I won't re-marry. Hell, it took me over three decades just to marry Bing! I am very comfortable being a pot with no lid and I suspect that if Bing died, I would never, ever re-marry. In fact, I would bet money on it.

Bing will be gone and I will be aging. It won't be pretty. I have too many infirmities. And since I have no intention of letting my daughter be my nursemaid, I will end up in a nursing home, I suppose.

This makes me so sad that I can hardly bear it. I don't want to sit in some cookie cutter little apartment in some brick building with cheery motives on the walls. I don't want to play bingo or go to listen to some folk singers carry on about "Puff the Magic Dragon" while we all sit around nodding off, some of us will have forgotten to put our teeth in.

I don't want to sit at a table with others for my meals and have to eat my diabetic meal plan serving. I don't want groups of grade school carolers to come sing Christmas songs to us while I sit in my wheelchair trying not to wonder who lives in my old home now, if there are stockings on the hearth like we used to do.

I don't want someone to bring a dog around for us to pet. It will make me think of Socks, probably buried in the back yard where someone else lives now and they don't even know that he is next to where that big garden used to be but is now a koi fish pond.

I don't want to have my daughter visit me, sometimes accompanied by my grandchildren and there I will be not recognizing her and asking her if she is the new nurse and seeing the tears start in her eyes and wondering why that pretty nurse is crying.

I seriously don't want to wear a diaper or have nurse aides talk about me as if I'm not there.

"You know she used to be a shrink! And all those books that her daughter insists need to stay in her room when she can't even understand Cat in the Hat anymore!"

And if I am even a little lucid this will bring a memory up of a little golden haired girl sitting in my lap giggling over thing 1 and thing 2.

I don't want to have to remember Bing. I want to have her with me.

I don't want to look down at my gnarled twisted hands and fingers and remember how tenderly she sat at the edge of the bed kneading my fingers until they weren't claws anymore and then leaning down and telling me to get up now, time to get ready for work, goodbye my love, I'll see you tonight. It's The Americans night on television. Can't wait!

When I go into nursing homes (and it is rare), I always look at the people there and remind myself that these people were once a big part of the world. Once, as I sat at a Christmas concert that our friend was giving, I sat next to a man who told me that he used to be a college professor. Taught math. And that his wife had passed the Summer before last and so now he had a single room. That his son lived in Colorado and came and visited every few months and brought the grandkids. And I sat there thinking of him standing in front of his class and saying, "Ok, kids. Hand in your work from last week. And Bill? Can I see you after class? I have that brochure about grad school for you." I thought of him going home to his wife and his son, maybe eating dinner and watching Charlie's Angels or something. Maybe pruning the rose bushes. Going to his son's basketball games and hoping that he didn't ride the bench this time.

When we stood up at the end of the concert and said goodbye and I watched him shuffling off with his walker, his white hair a tuft on the top of his head, I had to bite my lip not to cry. I went home and wrote out a Christmas card and sent it to him. He never answered and that's okay. I probably wouldn't have either, if the roles were reversed.

And they will be.

One day, I will be that person sitting in a nursing home and some sharp dressed woman will come sit down by me and ask if she can pour me some holiday punch. And I will tell her that I once worked with kids with autism and yes, I have a daughter. She's an environmental engineer, living in Arizona. I see her once in a while. And my granddaughter and son in law. And then that sharp dressed woman will get up and get to leave afterwards on her good strong legs and I will be wheeled back to my room where I will sit for a while and remember Bing's laugh and Liv's high jumps at the track meet and this blog. And then some aide will come in and put me to bed and maybe I will dream that I am young again and in college and meeting Steven Tyler when his band plays at a dance.

I fear aging. I know myself well. I will not go gentle into that good night. I will fight it.

I want to die when I am 80 years old, in my own bed, in Bing's arms.

Is that asking so much?

19 comments:

Josie Two Shoes said...

Now at 60, and with Papa Bear soon to be 61, there is not a day that aging isn't on our minds. Short and simple... it sucks. Golden years for a few maybe, but for the majority not so bright. One leaves and one will be left behind, or even worse, won't remember who the other is. I want to think that I can somehow handle it gracefully, but deep down I fear that I can't.

Victoria Adams said...

settle down.

Anonymous said...

If we’re icky, old age comes for us all. Today I was listening to John MAyer’s “Stop This Train:”

"So scared of getting older
I'm only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find away to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said help me understand
He said turn 68, you'll renegotiate
Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute change the place you're in
Don't think I couldn't ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we'll never stop this train"

The World According To Me said...

I don't run unless my house is on fire. Yep, that's me too.
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I've read yours a few times with keen interest but have been too shy to comment. Until now.
On a lighter note, I hope I go peacefully in my sleep too and avoid those nursing homes.

Joanne Noragon said...

Oh boy, you have quite the imagination. Remember to look back on this when you're seventy one and in tolerably good shape.

lily cedar said...

My mum didn't want to become dependent either, or have to live in a nursing home. It was one of her greatest fears. Six days before she died, my oldest sister told my mum, without my knowledge, that she should be living in a nursing home. I would never have let that happen.

When my dad was dying and he had been in the hospital for weeks, he was told that he was to be transferred to a nursing home. He died from pneumonia six days later.

So I don't think I'll end up in a nursing home. When my independence is gone I think I would find a way to die peacefully.


the only daughter said...

These thoughts have been haunting me since my mother died. And my physial aches increased. My mom didn't want to be in a nursing home. Heck, she wouldn't even sign off on assisted living.

On the plus, you have Bing NOW to help ease you into the next decade.

Peace.

Mitchell is Moving said...

It always fascinates me when people I know have it all figured out. My brother-in-law has his retirement planned in 5- to 10-year increments. First 10 years: Travel the world while in perfect health. Next 7 years: Travel domestically (because they won't have the energy/health to travel the world). 5 years: Move to a retirement community. 5 years: Assisted living.

What I want is to die in my sleep without ever suffering or making people around me suffer. I have no idea when that will be.

My sister died at 29 after 3-1/2 years of suffering; my father at 60 after 5 good and not-so-good years. My mother is 87 and going strong. But who knows what tomorrow will bring.

And, finally, Liv could end up a lawyer... or a fashion model. And she could live nearby and see you every day. Or she could teach at Trinity College and live in Dublin. And she could be single. Or have 6 kids that spend summers with you.

Don't ask. Let it all be a surprise (and hopefully a pleasant one).

Friko said...

Does Bing know she is going to die before you?

When you are 78 you’ll think it’s far too young to die and you want to get at least to 88.

As far as I can see - I have a few years yet to go there - old age isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I live in a place where old age starts at 90 and you want to hear the 90yr olds complain about their possible demise.

8thday said...

My family has instructions to hold a pillow over my face and just ignore the flailing.

I would like to make it past 70 though. Having been older when I first had kids, I would like to see my daughters happy in their own lives and perhaps be able to play with grandchildren.

But yes, if my quality of life deteriorates, the pillow comes out.

Anonymous said...

My mother is 80 and has a very good quality of life. She lives on her own, drives a car, is very involved with her church, loves her grandchild. 80 for many is the new 60.
- Rae

Anonymous said...

My mother is 80 and has a very good quality of life. She lives on her own, drives a car, is very involved with her church, loves her grandchild. 80 for many is the new 60.
- Rae

Marie said...

Isn't it a wonderful thing that we can't know what the future holds for us.
I am 79 years old and planning a major move to a new home, my own!
Tomorrow I am driving there to visit family and that's an 8 hr. drive, plus a ferry ride, so as you can see, I am anything but incapacitated!
buck up, Maria,don't worry about tomorrow, just enjoy today and all the pleasure it brings you.
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back!

e said...

My mom died at home, with my dad and me with her. There was no way in hell we would put her in any kind of 'facility'. I think my dad will go the same way. And, one or both of my brothers will there too.

For me, well, I've purchased some long term care insurance and I hope that it will ease the financial burden of having in-home care. I intend to die at home. I'm sure I'll be single by that time. And, while I don't want my daughter to have to wipe my ass, I do want her to be around. Selfish? Maybe. But, having just seen my own mom transition to the other side, I know that it is not all bad to be there.

In the meantime, I am planning on enjoying the next 20 or 30 years.

John Wooldridge said...

Bleeding hell women you actually made this gruff, miserable and aging Welsh man have tears well up and cause him to sit a while and think deeply about so many things he should have cared to have done. So I thank you for your graciously written words my dear.

Oh actually I had to sit in any case...call of nature.....

Jocelyn said...

You just made me both happy and sad.

I had a big "holy hell" as I realized your Bing is my Byron--same person, really. And that feeling of having do-gooders come to The Home and Be Nice already makes me crazy. Am I going to have to tolerate the good intentions of people I never could have stood in my more hale years?

That noted, I do want to live a looong time, but I require that I be fit and fine until the end. Not so much to ask.

Completely realistic.

I can dictate my future.

Shut up.

Danielle L Zecher said...

Aging is scary. I'm only 32, but the thought of getting old and being dependent on others scares the HELL out of me.

All three of my grandparents who lived past 55 (that one died in a car accident) have developed dementia, and it has totally changed all of them. I don't want to be like that.

Sometimes I think the grandfather who died in the accident may have been the lucky one. At least he died happy, knowing who he was, and able to go where/when he wanted.

Sarah said...

Floods of tears, you paint quite the picture, but I am sure that you and Bing and Liv, with your clearly indomitable spirits, will live on, healthy and strong for a very long time.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I try not to think about aging. It's too depressing to think about. Especially since I don't have kids to talk about. It'll be the nephew that lives in who-knows-where and visits me once a year, if I'm lucky.