Tag Archives: aging

Faces

He walks with a limp. Bent and stooped over he looks at the ground rather than straight ahead. With bowed legs and hips that curve to the left, his cane helps him to stand and move along.

That part I remember about him. He’s been like that for several years. But I was taken aback when I saw his face. Mouth sucked in. Cheeks seeming to drop off the side of his face. Almost puffy. Then I realized, he had no teeth! That was new.

When I was a child he had good teeth. Except the two front teeth on top, the ones that show the most. They were brown. He always said that was from being hit in the mouth by a rifle butt when he was in the army during World War Two. I guess that is true.

Then a couple of years ago I noticed that those two teeth had turned white. Dental whitening I thought. Lots of people whiten their teeth.

But the other day I took him to the dentist because his denture was hurting him. After the dental tech took him back to the chair the dentist came out to greet me. She said he’d been a patient of hers for a long time. The sign on her door read cosmetic oral surgery. Now I get it.

Turns out he has only two of his original teeth left. The rest are fake. And one of the originals needs to come out because it’s causing the denture pain. Damn, he’ll be down to one original.

Not like he’s thirty years old though. Not even forty. Or fifty. Hell, not even seventy or eighty. Nope, he’s ninety two years old. And still has one of his own teeth.

With his teeth in, in spite of his posture, he doesn’t look a day over eighty five. With the teeth out he looks like a cartoon character. Around the house he will leave them out. But when he goes out he puts in his teeth. He wants to look good for the ladies. And they all smile at him.

That’s my dad.

And that’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Picture

Sometimes it takes a while for the reality of something to sink into our brains. It may be a matter of coming to a place where you can accept the reality when it’s much easier to deny it, or it may just be that something hits you that says something like “remember that event? It’s real.”

After thirteen months, it’s finally beginning to sink in that my mother has died. Not that I was in denial or anything. I knew she had died. I saw her in the coffin. And the coffin in the ground. But I didn’t really accept that the person I had seen was my mother. Looked like her, but it wasn’t the woman I knew as my mother.

She died at age 90 of complications from dementia. Complications is a nice way of putting it. Basically, even though she had some memory issues, she knew she was alive, and what her quality of life was like, and would be like. And she said the hell with it, I’m done. After twenty six days of a self imposed starvation diet, she died. My father was with her. But I was nine hundred miles away.

She had been struggling for several years. It started gradually with, with small difficulties in finding a word when she was speaking. In the end most of her words were just a string of gibberish. It made sense to her, but no one understood what she was saying. And you could see her frustration.

For several years I was afraid that every time I visited her would be the last time I would see her alive. Finally I was right. It was one thing when she and my father lived in their own home. The place they lived for thirty eight years. But when they moved to the assisted living facility, which is really very nice, she went downhill fast. There was no more running on autopilot because she no longer knew where anything was. She stopped cooking, cleaning, making coffee, washing dishes. And her speech capabilities faded.

The last time I saw her I walked out of the room and knew I’d never see her alive again. She was sitting in a chair, babbling about something, looking very, very fragile. She had lost a lot of weight in the assisted living facility. She was my mother. At least she resembled her in appearance, and sounded similar. But the life I saw sitting in that chair was not the woman I knew as my mother.

My mother was vibrant and intelligent. She graduated from college the year before I did after having sacrificed for many, many years to raise her family. Her degree was in Far Eastern Art, and she got a job in an art museum working with Japanese wood block prints. Spoke Mandarin. She loved art and history and was widely travelled. Politically active with an eye toward power to the people. She was really something.

So, when she died I wasn’t surprised, and it wasn’t devastating. I lived nine hundred miles away so I hadn’t seen her as often as I would have liked. And after all, it was this new person, not my mother who had died. I went home, helped my dad and sister with the arrangements, went to the funeral and that was that. Sounds cold, but I loved my mother tremendously. She inspired me in my thirst for knowledge and deep thinking. But the woman who died was not my mother. Not in my mine.

As the anniversary of her death approached I thought about the facts. But they were just cold facts. She was dead. But in my mind, my mother, the person I knew as my mother, had been gone a long time, replaced by an imposter.

Then it came time for my own birthday. Just a few days later. And my wife was putting together a big party for me. Milestone birthday and all. She put out a lot of pictures of me as a kid and teen and young man and then as husband and father and whatever. At some point I looked glancing at one of these pictures and it captured my attention. A closer look revealed that my mother, my real mother, was in the picture. She was old, but vibrant, smiling, aware and active.

I had just completed the Philadelphia Marathon and she and my father had come to see me cross the finish line. My father took a picture of her hugging me as I wore my finisher’s medal and warming blanket. I was happy. She was happy. My father was disappointed I hadn’t won the race. He was convinced that being an overweight forty five year old white male was no excuse for not winning.

When I saw the look on her face in that picture, I recognized my mother. And then realized that my mother is gone. I can accept that. In a way it’s sad now, But I will always remember her as she was in her prime.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Pops!

It was intended as a sign of respect. A nod to the fact that I am mature. Perhaps he even referred to his own beloved father in that manner. And of course, the description does fit. Depending on how you look at it. And me. He called me Pops.

For dinner we went to my favorite pizza place. The guy taking our order was young enough to be my kid. He was in his twenties I’d say. And I do have two children of my own. Grown children.

To him my wife was Ma’am, my daughter was Miss, and I was Pops. To tell the truth, I didn’t really hear what he called me. Hearing loss form a lifetime of a loud world. My wife said it was Pops. I remember that my father called his father “Pop.” So Pop is OK. But Pops?

Oh hell, he called me an old man. Whippersnapper! In our youth we try to look older. And as we get older we try to look young. Teens with cigarettes. Bald men with toupees.

I have been blessed with good genes. I have my own hair. Even if it is turning a little gray. And my face looks at least ten years, maybe fifteen, younger than I am. Always had that baby face.

Dean Martin plays on my radio, but so does a lot of contemporary music. I keep up with it to some extent. Because I enjoy it. I can speak some of the “hip” lingo without sounding like an idiot. Gosh, my daughter tells me her friends think I’m a cool hipster. Must be my eyeglasses.

But it hit me one day last week that I’m not as young as I used to be. I was in the bathroom, pondering old men’s plumbing issues and I said to myself something like Damn! You’re not forty anymore!!!

And now, Pops! Good Lord. Next thing you know I’m gonna be sitting on the porch, in my rocker, wearing a pair of pants with its waist at my armpits. Held up by suspenders. And my teeth in a glass on the table next to me. Just like that. Overnight.

Maybe my hair has stayed put and my face has looked young because I was too stubborn to recognize that I was getting older. Now, with my eyes cracked open to that fact, it’s all gonna collapse. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and my pillow will be covered with hair. And my head will be bald!

Getting old comes with its ups and downs. Can’t stop the aging process. Yet. So I might as well enjoy it. I’m still gonna do my thang the way I do it and enjoy the ride.

But I might not go back to that restaurant!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?   www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The Wine Corks

A fine example.  If you’ve ever wondered about the magnitude of sifting through the memorabilia of thirty-eight years of home ownership, consider this.  A basement.  Nearly 1000 square feet jam packed with this, that and the other thing.  And there, on a shelf under the stairs, next to a collection of dusty old wine bottles waiting for consumption, were three coffee cans full of old wine bottle corks!  He got rid of the bottles, but saved the corks.

My mother and father are moving.  After thirty-eight years in this old house, they are downsizing.  They have to go through the 2600 square feet of the house, plus the basement, attic and barn.  And yes, each of these areas is packed with things like wine corks!  I know my dad had a plan for the corks.  He told me.  He just never got around to it.  Just like every nut, bolt, nail or screw that ever passed through his hand.  All stuffed in coffee cans.

Don’t get me wrong.  They have a lot of really cool stuff.  I mean really cool.  And some of it is indeed stuffed in coffee cans.  But there is some other stuff too.  Stuff they will need to part with.  They can’t even take all the good stuff with them let alone the things like wine corks.  I know it must be hard.

Judging by the speed at which they are sorting through all of this, they should be finished by about…NEVER!  They have been contemplating this move for five years.  It’s been a reality for the past several months.  And, whoa! Did I mention it’s gonna happen in January?!  They don’t have to get it all done in January though.  There is a window of opportunity.  But they might want to pick up the pace a little.

Watching them in their daily routine, breakfast, coffee, the newspaper etc., I realize that they are in no hurry.  And I wonder, do they really want to move?  No, I think not.  They are not young anymore and it’s hard work.  Physically and mentally.  They have been there a long time.  Because they love it there.  But there are compelling reasons to move. At this point in their lives.  They know that.  And as the time finally arrives, I’m sure it will happen.  But first, they will re-examine the wine corks.  And so many other memories.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Brighter Bulbs

For my own peace of mind I had to tell them.  Didn’t want them to think any other way.  Sure, I can still do it.  No problem.  It’s just, well, maybe its time to let someone else help a little more.  They have always relied on me for this although I have tried to get them to help in the past.  Back then they were not too interested.  Maybe now, if they want it done, they’ll have to help a lot more.

Since I fell, and broke my shoulder blade, they won’t let me do a lot of things anymore.  No climbing on ladders.  I have though.  And no carrying heavy objects.  I do.  Be careful!  We all know, even if we don’t say it, that I was very lucky, and next time, which they  are trying to prevent, I might not be.

So, the Christmas decorations will need some new installers.  I’ve always climbed up the ladder, beyond the safe step, and held the column with one hand and leaned waaaaaaaaay out to attach the string of icicle lights to the gutter on the front porch.  Or leaned the ladder against the wall and held on to nothing more than the mortar joints between the courses of bricks to reach high enough to get the string of lights attached to the gutter over the garage.

The ladder I use is a kind of medium size one.  Too short to easily reach these heights, but not so long as to be unmanageable.  I’ve set up a forty foot extension ladder by myself in the past.  Not easy, even when all your parts work.  So the daredevil contortions are necessary to get the job done.  One year I stood on the roof and leaned over to put the lights on the gutter, but I didn’t like that approach too much.

This year, I went to get my haircut and when I came home my youngest daughter had put up everything but the icicle lights.  And she did a great job of it too.  I adjusted a few placements here and there, just to look like I was still in charge, but she did it.  I still had to do the icicles.  But this year, instead of doing it by myself when everyone else was out shopping, the whole family was there.  Me on the ladder with my wife holding my feet, and my youngest holding the ladder and the oldest holding lights and reaching out to catch me.   The dog was just sitting there watching the whole thing.

I still had to do some daredevil things.  And I realized that I could fall.  I told my wife that this time the bushes would catch me.  More likely impale me.  But I was very careful to be very careful.  More so than in years past.

They put the lights on the Christmas tree too.  I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.  It’s always been my job.  But they did it.  Except for the few adjustments I made when they were done.  Still in command!

It’s hard to admit some things.  Like the fact that time brings changes.  Or that at some point we can’t do the things we used to.  In my mind its tough to accept the fact that my hair is turning grey.  But in their minds, I’m still the dad.  Still the husband.  Still superman.  But the torch is being passed.  And brighter bulbs will soon be in charge.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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