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Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Have to be Tough to Get Old

A Guest Post from BWL Author,
Lorrie Unites-Struiff

Many of us Crones have (or are working through) this one. The kids grow up and leave but your caregiving responsibilities are far from over. Suddenly, unexpectedly, you find yourself in charge of one or both of your parents, or, maybe even your spouse.

For some people, “The Golden Years” are not the relaxing, traveling and fun years televisions and magazines say will be ours when we become seniors. Many have said this to me. Now I find myself in full agreement.

My mother had Parkinson’s and I took care of her in my home for three years. Eventually came the time I could no longer help her and placed her in a care home. She died six months later on Christmas Day.

Two months ago, I had to place my husband in a care home. I could no longer take care of him properly, even with the help of in-home hospice care. You see, he has Alzheimer’s, COPD, ruptured disks in his back and horrible stenosis of the spine. Together, these diseases cause him much pain, and sometimes he falls when he walks. I couldn’t pick him up, nor knew what would happen next in the middle of the night with his Alzheimer at home.

I’m sure many of you have gone through this and know what I’m writing about. As he got worse, I became scared, exhausted, tired of the arguments, and so much more. I couldn’t function as a human being anymore.

Now, I go visit him almost every day. The care home I chose happens to be a very nice one. I see how the staff treats the other patients with kindness and smiles. At times, they must use the sternness of authority. But never in an unkind manner.

When I enter the home, I see John lying in his horizontal wheelchair who can’t move a muscle except for his mouth, and I watch the uncontrollable movement of his arms and hands.  He’s such a sweet guy who loves when I sit near him and we talk. He smiles and we have a small conversation until his wife comes in to sit by his side. He has a great attitude. Jane appreciates me taking the time and is such a sad woman. We chat occasionally. We are both visiting a loved one here every day; it makes us sisters in sorrow.

There is Mary, curled up on a couch in the big living room, sound asleep. The other couches and chairs are occupied by men and women in various degrees of  withdrawal and illness. Some stay in their rooms. A man goes by with a walker that has a bunny rabbit attached to the grip. He looks so mean, but is really nice and says hello to everyone.

And oh, there is Sally who is seventy-five years old. She came into my hubby’s room one day and asked if I had a phone. She said she had to call her husband to make sure he picked up their young son after school. I told her I didn’t have a phone. Five minutes later, she returned with the same question. I gave the same answer. The next time she came into the room, I immediately told her I didn’t have a phone. Sally put her hands on her hips, gave a snort, and said, “How did you know what I was going to ask?”

Minnie the Moocher, as she is called, is always asking visitors for cigarettes. If you bring in a big bottle of soda pop, she’ll come in with a glass of ice and ask for some. How can you say no?

They all wear ankle bracelets that set off alarms if they open an outside door. Then you see the aides come running.

When my grandchildren go to visit Pap, our eighteen-year-old grandson likes to walk the unsteady patients down the halls and back. Did I tell you I’m proud of him? My seven-year-old granddaughter feels it’s her duty to go around and give everyone a loving hug. Seeing the patients’ eyes light up when she does it is a joy. Then we have our seven-month-old bruiser of a baby boy whom everyone wants to hold.

My daughter will allow it, but she keeps a steady two hands on him while they do, for safties sake. He’s a lively baby but endures the handling by strangers and gives them big smiles.

These, my friends, are not the “Golden Years.” They are the sorrowful years to watch your loved ones fade away slowly. My aunt has a saying with which I will end my story:

“You have to be a tough bird to get old.”

Lorrie Unites-Struiff—author

Gypsy Blood available at Amazon.

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