93 and Counting…

Dad is 93 years old today.  I can’t believe I just wrote that.

I’ve never really known anyone who was 93 years old.  I can’t fathom all those years. So much history, so many lives encountered. So much laughter, and heartache. Here he is in the Navy, a period of time he loved, with a buddy. Dad is on the right, with the big smile.

My dad has lived a full and energetic life. He has lived longer than his father did; he has outlived five of his siblings and one child. He has seen this country change in ways that make him disheartened.

He wants to be 25 again. He believes, somehow, some way, some doctor will make that possible. He is eternally optimistic about this. His doctors tell me that’s why he is still with us: he has hope.

I have never met anyone with such unflagging faith that heart disease can be turned around and Parkinson’s can be cured. It’s just a matter of time. And he’ll be here when those discoveries occur.

Dad with my brother, who had a broken arm.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’m not that optimistic. About anything. I pretty much think life is one ridiculous stumbling block after another, and at some point I’m going to wear out and be ready to be done with all this foolishness. So much of what we do here on the planet isn’t that important (how many movies can we watch on Netflix?), so I’m not that attached. I’m already tired.

Then, I spend time with Dad and feel a bit guilty I don’t wholeheartedly embrace every day, every hour as an adventure. I don’t know how he does it, gets up every day, looking for the next fun, exciting, miraculous thing. He fights the aging process, the fatigue, the disabilities. I have to think, as a child, he was probably a handful. I bet his mom was tired.

Dad with our daughter, who is now a science teacher. They are very much alike. They have a weekly date. 

Today is an amazing day, because Dad will be embarking on his 94th year. There will be so many opportunities for more adventures. We are giving him a gift card to Home Depot, so he can buy some new plants (gardening is one of his loves) and tickets to choral concert (music is his other love.) We cancelled the big Hershey bar, because he was told by two separate doctors this week that he needs to give up sugar.

Dad told me recently he thought it would be great to make it to 100. I asked him why. He replied, “I’d sure get a lot of attention.” Then, he grinned. Dad loves people, he’s an extrovert to the core. Life is one big party that he does not want to end.

Dad with one of his 8 great grand children

I’m so grateful God gave my Dad to me. He has always been a wonderful father, a man of conviction and great humor. It is very sad to see him decline, and I know someday the party will end. I pray daily that it will be quick, and that he will be in heaven before he realizes the door is closing on this gig.

Here’s a picture of Dad on his 90th birthday. Can’t you just see the five-year old in there?

 
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Life at Both Ends 2

Isn’t it surprising what can happen in one week? When I last wrote, I was on the sofa with an ice pack on my knee. I had tripped down the stairs, and my knee was the size of a softball.

Today, the knee is back to normal, but for a couple red spots where I had skin contusions. As I was getting better, Mom was getting sick. She developed bronchitis, and we made a visit to the doc so he could listen to her goopy, wheezy, crackly lungs. We started levaquin that night, and she’s now hacking a bit less. However…

Two days later, she developed a patterned rash on her back that was creeping around to her side, and the ALF nurse was pretty sure Mom had shingles. We headed back to the doc, and yep, shingles. My mom is 95 and a half and the size of a twig. Yet, she weathers illness and injury like a soldier. I was off my knee for two days when I tripped down two stairs; Mom, with bronchitis and shingles, keeps tooling around in her wheel chair, straightening her room and sifting through paperwork. I get tired just watching her.

On the Dad front, he’s still in rehab after a fall four weeks ago, and then a small stroke Oct. 7. They’re having trouble stabilizing his involuntary movements, which make PT difficult. He’s really tired of the whole thing, and he alters between wishing God would take him and telling his therapists his goal is to walk again, unaided (which he has not done in over a year.) I try to console him; yes, it’s hard to be disabled. God loves us anyway, even if we don’t feel “useful.”

I don’t know what else to say because I don’t get it either. Both of my parents have been worker bees all their lives. They have served and shared and contributed so much to their world. Now they are in wheel chairs, watching the world pass them by, and they are still with it enough to fully understand what all they’ve lost. Only by the grace of God does our family keep plugging along. It doesn’t make sense to the mind or the heart why they are still here, but we are not the authors of life and death, so we just keep going as long as God allows. I trust someday I will understand. I pray I will look back on these years and say, I get it now.

Dad moves to a new rehab facility today, where he will have another thirty days to recover. We don’t yet know what “recovery” will look like. There are some new deficits that might be permanent, but we won’t know that until he is unable to overcome them. I pray he can return to his ALF with Mom, but we just don’t know yet. So, we wait and watch and take him strawberry milkshakes on bad days. 

On the sweet, glorious front, our daughter-in-law came down for a visit this past weekend and spent some loving time with Dad. She brought him a book he’s been wanting and some chocolate and put lotion on his arms and chatted with him like he was her best friend. She’s wonderful that way.

She’s also carrying our first grandchild, James, who’s the size of a large mango. Here’s a picture of the three generations, although James is not yet visible. He’s warm and snugly under his mama’s blue dress. Dr. Ben Carson made it into the picture as well.

I love pictures like this because they hold the full spectrum of life. A new budding babe sharing a seat on the bed with his great grandpa, (who’s middle name is James) who has lived a full, adventurous life and is longing for peace of mind and an end to all struggles. Both of these lives are fragile, yet full of expectation. I pray in February, I can get a picture of Dad holding baby James.

So, in spite of the challenges of aging, I am blessed by the thought of holding fresh life in about four months. I’m excited for our son and his sweet wife. I’m grateful my knee is 90% back, and I’m glad all the Halloween candy is finally out of the house. I ate entirely too many Milky Ways.

The adventures continue here in the Ballpark…

Life at Both Ends

My 94-year old Mom has been in the hospital for nine days.

A few states away, there is a new baby in the family, just two days old.

Both are wrapped in cozy blankets, both are fragile and needy and vulnerable.

Both are loved so much.

Opposite ends of the spectrum, these two lives. One is surrounded by joy and tears. The other is accompanied by frequent sadness and tears. Both tug on the heart and draw us closer to God, who authors all life.

Mom will be 95 in just a few days, and in a month, her latest great grandson will be visiting. I pray we can get a photo of these two together, but today Mom talked of being so tired and getting a feeling that her life is winding down, so we will see what God has planned.

When I look at Mom, I see a long, full life.   When I gaze on this sweet new grand nephew of ours, I see a long, full life. Mom has many memories; our grand nephew has none. I cannot visualize our grand nephew at 95.  Only God knows what his journey will be. 
Life is short and long at the same time. When I’m sitting with Mom, who is often confused these days, the hours are long because there is a relenting grief that this may be the last day I see her.  When my brother holds his new grandson, I’m sure he’s aware that this little boy will grow up as fast as his own sons did. Time seems to be measured by the heart – what we are celebrating, and what is painful. 
Life is amazing and scary and surprising at both ends.  It has value at both ends.  And every day in between. 

8 Rules for a Lifetime Marriage

Looks who will be married 66 years this month.

The ex-clown is there in the middle, their third offspring.  Mom looks a little haggard, but I guess you’re entitled when you’re just weeks away from turning 96.

These two continue to amaze me. Dad fights chronic UTIs, and Mom moves slower than molasses, but they are hardy stock from Indiana, and they have more energy than me these days.

People ask them all the time, how have you stated married for so long? Here is their wisdom on the topic.

Mom: You just do it. You might argue now and then, but you work it out.

Dad: Just listen to your wife. Wives need to talk a lot.

Mom: Try to make healthy food.  That helps you out later in life.

Dad: Get away from each other once in a while. Everybody needs a break. 

Mom: We pray every night that we’ll be able to handle what happens tomorrow.

Dad: Pray together.

Mom: You have to forgive.

Dad: Let her do what makes her happy.

Mom: Let him do what makes him happy.

Dad: Marry the right girl.

There ya’ go. Feel free to print that out and hang it on your ‘fridge.  These would be good wedding vows, don’t you think?

To “cherish and honor” is fine, but how does that translate into action? Like this: “I promise to listen to you, let you do what makes you happy, make good food for you, pray with you, forgive you, and get away from you once in a while.”

When we’re all young and dewy-eyed, we don’t know marriage requires so much, like listening, forgiving, spinach salads, and asking God for guidance.  Hollywood portrays it as roses and romance, or something to avoid. We don’t get an accurate picture of long-term commitment from the entertainment world, so it’s refreshing to see the real deal when we come across it.

My folks are part of the The Greatest Generation, and I think part of what makes this age group great is that they take seriously their commitments. Their word is gold. That kind of honor brings stability and security to a family, a village, a nation.

It’s the best gift my parents gave me.


Nonagenarians

The word nonagenarian refers to someone who is in their 90’s.

I didn’t know that. The word is interesting to me, because it breaks down to non-age-arian, which looks like the person is no longer aging, or has no age.

This certainly fits my dad, who is almost 92 and believes he stopped aging at 25.  He attempts to defy the aging process with every doctor visit.  He believes the next pill will turn back time.  Even though his body is winding down with Parkinson’s and heart issues, his spirit is 25.  He is the eternal optimist when it comes to living.  He will never permanently leave his wheel chair, but his New Year’s resolution was to return to walking unassisted.

My mom will be 95 in July.  She is more realistic about her physical limitations, but insists her mind is as sharp as a tack, and if anyone is confused about anything, it’s going to be you.  She has been diagnosed with dementia, but don’t tell her that.

My folks, Jane and Klinedale

I guess by the time you hit the age of 90, you are entitled to believe what you want, regardless of the facts.  That’s one of the perks of being a nonagenarian.  

Two Things I Need to Remember (constantly)

I had a rough evening with Mom this week.  She’s 94 and has some dementia, and I help her shower, and tonight, she wasn’t very happy.  She didn’t like something I bought her, she was impatient with the fact that I’ve not connected with her physical therapist yet (we keep missing each other), she kept at me about helping her with a letter she’s been writing, and she didn’t like the towel I used to help her dry off.

On the mile-drive home from my parents’ ALF, I felt the pressure of tears. I’ve been helping my parents (Dad is 91) for five years, and I’ve watched them gradually decline.  Every month or so, they have a medical issue, or a further slip in mental acuity. Overall, I’m able to cope, but once in awhile…it hits me that these are not the parents I grew up with.  Their lives have become very small.  Their memories are short, their complaints are close to the surface.  They are adamant that they can do everything they used to do, but they really can’t.  I am usually the bad guy, the one who sets the boundaries, says no, but behind the scenes, makes sure they are OK. 

I am a caretaker.  I never thought I’d be doing this, but here I am.  I love my parents, and God sustains me.  I’m not complaining.  I’m just realizing that as we age and our awareness/abilities disappear, we are left with what seems to be simply the flesh.  And the flesh is weak and tired and grumpy.

My parents were never like this before.  They are dedicated Christians who raised four children and buried a son when he was 23.  They worked in the church tirelessly all of their adult lives. They opened their home to friends and strangers alike.  Any loving kindness I have ever extended, I learned from them.

The Mom I helped a few nights ago is not the Mom who raised me and became a friend/spiritual guide to me.  But, it’s not her intention to be testy; her brain is simply deteriorating. It’s wearing down and wearing out, and frequently, misfiring.  This is what the flesh does.  It was never meant to be permanent.  It’s here for awhile, and then it turns to dust.  It helps to remember this.

I will meet the spirit of my Mom again one day, when we are both gone from this life.  I believe we will be reunited in heaven, whatever form that takes.  The flesh will be a thing of the past, and we will be at peace.  It helps to remember this too.

May Days

According to my May posts, in May, I learned I have fibromyalgia, and I made Biscotti and Puffy Biscuit Rolls.  Lest you think all I do around here is develop odd syndromes, and then bake, here’s a few other things that happened in May.

1.  I gave up extra sugar.  Crazy, right?  Especially, since I love to bake (and eat Biscotti and biscuits rolls.)  But, it was time.  The big surprise – it hasn’t been that difficult.  In three weeks, I’ve cheated twice.  I’ll get better.  It helps that I CAN have an ounce of dark chocolate a day.  Whoo-hoo!

2.  I researched and started ingesting glucosamine sulfate, Curamin, and ribose.  These are supplements that supposedly help fibro.  Isn’t that fascinating?  I’ll keep ya’ posted.

3.  I visited eight doctor’s offices.  Between the folks and myself, we’re keeping the physicians in town hopping.

4.  I attended a womens’ retreat with a good friend.  We had quiet time, prayer time, and a great meal that I did not fix.  That was the best part.

5. My daughter and I made soup and homemade bread for a women who was fading from this life due to cancer.  She passed the following day.  Our gift to her was probably her last meal.  I pray it soothed her body and calmed her spirit.

6.  Our girl celebrated a birthday.  Here she is at age five, exploring life though a magnifying glass.

Today, she teaches high schoolers science and character.  She doles out Jolly Ranchers on test days and gives extra credit points for observed kindnesses. If I had a science teacher like her, I would have almost liked high school.

7.  Our baby boy had a birthday.  He weighed nearly ten pounds at birth, and my bladder has never been the same.  He’s now the tallest one in the family, but he’ll always be my little bubba.

Here he is getting caught in the rain with his lovely wife.

8.  My Dad had a birthday.  Here he is enjoying his favorite thing on earth – a night out with our girl getting frozen yogurt and double hot fudge.

Have you ever seen a happier 91-year old?  We have several May birthdays, but we make the biggest ta-da over this one.

9.  We spent an hour at Starbucks with our financial advisor.  A cup of sweet chai tea makes the number-crunching go down more smoothly.

10.  My brother, the ex-clown, was in town with his colleagues.  They like to visit our local pie shop and come to our place with the goods.  We all eat like pigs before they go back to work.

This was the cream of the crop.

LEMON MERINGUE

Is this gorgeous, or what?  We have the best pie shop in the country.  Sadly, they don’t ship because it’s cost prohibitive, but if you’re ever near Melbourne, Florida, Sweetie Pies is the place to go. 

June already has four doctor appointments listed, as well as a colonoscopy.   I’ll spare you the details on that one.

Summer has arrived!