Monday, January 19, 2009

My Mom

This is my Mom.

She's almost 82. Her hair color is natural, which she's very proud of--particularly since her four younger siblings all "went white" long ago. In fact, her only sister--12 years her junior--began going white at 17 and was completely white by 35. I love my Mom. She was really good to me and taught me many things of value as I grew up. She had her problems, as everyone does, but now, since she's been a widow for just over ten years, she's really struggling with the changes that have come into her life. (In this picture--taken back in July 2008--she's listening intently to my oldest brother telling her something at family gathering.) I mean no disrespect to my Mother in any way, as I mention some of the issues she's dealing with currently. Age and changes in one's life often are met with resistance. We're all human, of course, and meet these challenges differently.

There are several negative things I’ve seen that seem to be fairly consistent in elderly people I’ve encountered over the years. Some are family members, some are not.

As their bodies and minds age creating a multitude of physical limitations, they regress somewhat in taking responsibility for themselves—while demanding others do things they should be doing for themselves.

  • They become very ego-centric
  • They fight those family members who try the most to help them
  • They often refuse to do those things that would most help them live a fuller, healthier life
  • They become petulant
  • They complain about their family members, yet . . .
  • They smile more and are far more compliant for “therapists” and doctors—while those individuals are with them face-to-face
  • They can only hear what they want—amazing selective hearing properties (similar to our children)
  • They feel neglected and useless
  • They become easily discouraged and despondent with their physical limitations

However, we’ve all seen elderly people who are full of life and “vim and vigor”. My Mother’s father was one of those. Suffering with macular degeneration didn’t hold him back from going bowling 3 to 5 times a week. He’d been involved in bowling most of his adult life, I suppose, and was league secretary for three different leagues simultaneously—while his vision held out. When I spoke with him one day, he said, “You know, I bowled a 300 today!” “Wow, Grandpa, that’s amazing!” I said. He had a good belly laugh and then continued, “Yeah. It took me three games of 100 each, but I bowled a 300!”

Grandpa was 93 when he died, and was only bed ridden the last 2 or 3 months of his life after suffering a heart-attack. My Grandma lived to be 96, and died not long before Grandpa.

So, some elderly folks embrace life to its fullest, even though hampered by some physical limitations—like my Grandpa, who was legally blind for years, but still went bowling 3 days a week! He always enjoyed life and interacting with people.

After my step-father died ten years ago, Mom’s become more and more reclusive and far less independent. She’s had a lot of struggles in her life—two unhappy marriages before her third, very happy marriage are just part of the whole picture, I suppose.

So, if you have parents that are aging (look out, my dear off-spring), try to encourage them early on to stay physically/emotionally/intellectually active and inter-connected with you and your families. And the old golden rule applies: “Do for them what you’d like them to do for you.” Okay, whether you’re the child or parent or anyone else for that matter, that rule of thumb works very well. And pray a lot for guidance and good health and wisdom--for them and yourselves!

And y’all have a great day. I’m feelin’ good and smilin’!!! (Children, your Dad and I just discussed this last night and we’re going to try very hard to not be difficult for you in 20 years or so from now.) Yeah. Right now you have to take us as we are. Heh, heh.


Laura said...

My parents are both 74 and are still very active. They haven't gotten crotechty yet, and I'm hoping they won't. Watching how they care for all of their famly members, makes me determined to return the love to them (let's just hope bedpans and diapers won't be required).

Pencil Writer said...

Laura, happy for you and them! I pray it continues, too. I believe that when we stay engaged in caring for others, like you said your parents are doing, they'll be more likely to keep doing the same as they continue to age. I have a dear friend, same age as my Mom, who is like your parents. Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to return.

jeanie said...

It is something both poignant and sad the deterioration of loved ones with age.

Some have physical faculties let them down while their minds remain sharp and connected.

Some seem still so agile and yet creeping upon them is the gradual atrification of the mind.

You describe the first steps we went through with my grandmother before she was diagnosed with some horrible words that should not have suited a vibrant woman.

I so agree that being involved seems to make it easier for the elderly to carry on, but I also wonder which comes first - the pruning of life or the slow folding of the mind upon itself.