Monday, December 20, 2010
GETTING OLD IS NOT FOR SISSIES
This famous quote from Bette Davis has given reality to our lives lately and made me think.
A friend has raised the question, if there is such a thing as living too long. I can not answer this, I guess it is very human to want to hang on, even if mishap occurred, even if facing a serious health crisis in very old age. I am not young any more, but still not old. Am I prepared? Will I be brave? If the wheels in my mind turn slower, if dangers are present every day and I lose control, will I cope? If my independence has deserted me and others have to care for my needs, to decide for me, to wash me, to feed me, will I smile? Will I be thankful for the days left and welcome them? Will I greet the sun and enjoy the blue sky, even if only through the window? Will my emotions and feelings stay positive?
Oh please, please, let it be that way!
My parents-in-law are old, way over eighty. Till up to a year ago they scarcely needed help from us, they took pride in caring for themselves. Two years ago my father-in-law would still drive his car for short distances, like the weekly grocery shopping trip. My mother-in-law still sometimes cooked Shabat dinner for us, our favorite meals from where she was born and grew up, from Irak.
Then tragedy struck, my husband's father had a stroke and the mother was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly they needed us. But to realize a situation and its seriousness and to accept help is not easy. To acknowledge disability, to understand that almost nothing can be done like before, and to trust in the goodness of others, in their willingness to help, and give in to it, has to be learned and practiced.
To make things worse last week my mother-in-law fell, and among other "smaller" damages to her body, like a broken rip and a broken sinus bone, her left knee got smashed. She needs an operation, otherwise she won't walk. But her overall condition has to be considered and we all face difficult decisions and we found ourselves in all round care for both of them. We take turns at the hospital with her and at home with my father-in-law, who is confused and heartbroken, all he wants is her to be back. They wish to die, they beg for it, both of them. It is sad and heart wrenching to see their suffering and their deterioration, there is less and less of them, in body and spirit, there is no joy anymore, no pleasure in anything - it is like the curtain fell, the stage is empty and only backstage left...
I help as much as I can, I try to be strong and I also hope to retrieve something for myself from this awful and desperate situation, for later, when I might need it - to stay focused on the beauty of life, to feed on cherished memories, and not to lose the ability to enjoy the rays of the sun and the smiles of my loved ones, even if the reality is not promising any thing at all - I would like to stay on stage, to be there, till the last moment!