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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts About Getting Old

We moved Mama to a skilled nursing facility on Friday. She has been steadily declining since Daddy died and the latest bout with a UTI and the consequent hospitalization and rehab made it clear that she needed to be some place where there was both more medical care and a more pro-active approach to socialization. In the AL place where she lived, she had a rather spacious studio apartment and help bathing, dressing and getting to meals but because she was such a high physical maintenance resident, unless she expressed desire to participate in the social activities, she was taken back to her room after meals. And it wasn't too difficult to ask her "wouldn't she like a nap?", to which my mother would always say "yes". Her two tablemates were so deaf she really had nobody to talk to other than the CNAs whenever she was being taken to meals or put to bed.

Where she lives now, well - what can I say - it looks like a hospital room. A luxury hospital where her own pictures are hanging on the wall and where she has the prettiest view out a large airy window, into a little wooded copse where squirrels and cardinals perched on branches as if to say hello, mind you. There is also a friendly, just chatty enough room mate who seems to have about the same stretch of short term memory as Mama. But. But she really is just lying in a hospital bed.  At least, that's how I left her on Friday.

This is the third time we've moved her. The first time we actually stayed with her a few days, one sister on, one sister off, so she wouldn't feel so disoriented. Of course - she was so glad to be free from the constant bickering with Dad, and had much more mobility and dexterity then - after all, this was 5 years ago. Oh la! Time is just streaming away from us all. Five Years! With her first move she made friends, flirted with old men, got into squabbles with other garrulous old ladies and crashed her motor scooter into furniture. With her second move she was still ready to make friends and participate but her fingers were stiffening and tremors made her such a reckless driver (and she was never a very good driver in the best of times) that she had to switch to regular wheel chair which she was not ever going to propel herself. Dependent on others to get her places, her world shrank.

This move - there was not going to be any staying by her side to ease the transition. I must say that throughout the day all sorts of staff dropped in to speak to her. Not just medical staff, but administration and recreation people popped in, bringing her flowers or little notes - and it was impressive to me also, that they brought her roommate a flower too. She was very frightened about all this - but stoic enough. Also, Mama likes to be cossetted and babied. If just half this much attention, or a quarter, continues, she'll start to enjoy herself. I also noticed that the nurses, 3 of them in rotation, were very thorough in their care of her.

So. So there it is. We hope she'll actually improve a bit now that she's going to be in a more social situation. We also know that this new phase could be brief or lengthy - with no reason to count on either. It will cost almost, but not quite twice as much as where she had been. Thank God there is enough money to keep her there about a decade, at which time she would be 100. Who knows where the state of elder care will be by then. Heck. I may be living there - or BD.

Of course - I don't really believe either of us will be in a nursing home in 10 years - but that's because I don't want to believe it. I am definitely going to be in the old lady category by then and that is something that has nagged at me all week long. It was always going to come back to mememememe, now, wasn't it? Well, this is, after all, TheQueen's blog so She gets to natter on about Herself any time She wants to.  And what has struck me all week was just the sheer oldness of me. There are just decades and decades of memories behind me. I was at the library directors' meeting on Thursday and it hit me full force - the ones I know are so OLD. The new ones I don't know very well look like dewy eyed babies. Funny - they all look like librarians - but then - that's what they are.

I kept wondering, though, as I chatted with people I've worked with and around and along side of for 30+ years .... do they still feel like they're young things? Do they look in the mirror at a stranger in the morning? Are they ready to get out on the dance floor and shag or would they feel embarassed? What are they looking forward to in the next  year? The next decade? 30 years from now?

If I live as long as Mama I'll have 30 more years to fill up, though she had only about 24 active years. Of course I realize I'm not my mother, though we share many traits. For one thing - I could never be as physically idle as she has been all her life. I am also healthier than she - although, after all - she is nearly 90 and though she has diabetes, it is Type 2 and does not seem to be eating away at her they way Type 1 does its victims. But other than that, she suffers only from ancient-ness.

In addition to these pesky imponderables, I have felt rolling waves of nostalgia crashing over me all weekend long. I miss Daddy dreadfully. A film reel of pictures, memories, thoughts of times gone, by is playing in the background of my consciousness, poking its tear jerking nose into my daily routine. An image of Daddy at Datona Beach; the faint echo of Mama and me laughing our heads off the first time we saw Tiny Tim on the Laugh In Show; a glorious May afternoon when I was in college and Mama and I had lunch together - I still remember what I was wearing and how much fun it was to be with her, carefree and blithe. For that matter - I remember asking her, when I was about 7, what blithe meant. Oh la. I am going to weep if I don't stop doing this.

And yet - I would rather weep over these sweet old memories than not have them. I don't believe I would be me without this mental and emotional history.

Nobody prepares you for the old lady state of life. We are trained early to get ready for school, taught in school to step out into life, learn on the job how to be the grown-ups we must be. But nothing prepares you for old age. It just sneaks up on you, insinuates itself into your days and suddenly, Bam! There you are. (Hope I am) happy landing on a chocolate bar.


  1. Oh my sweet dear cyber-friend! Just a snippet older than you are, turning 60 in September and feeling younger in my head. Ran (slowly) an hour this morning, and no pain or stiffness. Eye exam Monday = new lenses for close-up work by that birthday, and the news that even my astigmatism is "aging" (!)...but I keep *moving* so I won't be *losing* whatever I can. Remember, our stashes cannot out-live us, so we must "Keep calm, and carry on"! Hem, hem, hem....


  2. This is the year I turn 70, so officially, 'll be an old crone. I hope you will enjoy the dickens out of the years to come, and keep writing. These will be amazing years, with a quality of life and awareness of the world around you, like no others.