Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Old age, for many people, is a time of good days and bad days. Yesterday, was a day when my parents moods and pains rose and fell like the tides. In the morning, my Dad seemed fairly energetic, but tense. We were going to church and he kept nagging me about making sure I was ready. Then, we were off and he cheered up once he was inside the church and greeting old friends and the minister. Many asked about my mother and during the prayers for the people, my mother's name was the first mentioned.
After the service, we stayed for coffee and cookies then drove out to the rehab center. There had been a dusting of snow during the night and the sun came out and it was a lovely, although cold, winter afternoon. When we got to her room, my mom was sleeping, lying flat on her back - which she isn't supposed to do because of the risk of pneumonia. "Life is miserable," she said when she woke up. I encouraged her to crank her bed up and rubbed the rose oil I'd brought onto her wrists and sternum, as my sister suggested. Mom seemed to enjoy that and the fragrance of roses filled the room for a while. When the male nurse - who my mom really likes - came into the room, he said, "flowers?" and my mom smiled. Meanwhile, lunch hadn't arrived and Mom was getting anxious, not because she was hungry but because there isn't much else to look forward to on Sundays. Finally, lunch came and Mom ate a reasonable amount and I helped her brush her teeth and dentures. When we left, about half and hour later, she was propped up in bed, still not in a great mood.
We went home and I threw Mom's dirty clothes in the washer and drank a cup of coffee and wrote in my journal until it was time to put the clothes in the dryer. I don 't really understand why, but after being at the rehab center, I often feel tired, as though I've worked an entire day and so once the clothes were in the dryer I took a nap. Dad woke me up about 3:30 and said he was going back up to see Mom. I grabbed the clothes and a few other items and got in the car. A few blocks away, Dad turned left on red and I told him, probably not too kindly, that turning left on red WAS NOT OKAY! He got mad and for a while we didn't talk and then we were at the rehab center. I let him go in ahead and I phoned my sister who helped me put the red light thing in perspective and, without minimizing the problem, reminded me that the goal of the week was to get Mom and Dad through the week in a mood conducive to signing the reverse mortgage they'd applied for several months ago.
Once I calmed down, I went down to Mom's room to discover her in a much better mood. She had been reading and was on page 184 of her book: more reading than she's done since fracturing her hip. She was in a softer mood, possibly because the rose oil had helped, but more likely because she had arrived at a point in the day when her medications were in balance. Who can say for sure. All I know is that the moon was waxing, not waning. Thank goodness. Dinner was ground beef tenderloin with gravy. For desert Mom said she would eat pumpkin pie - which I'd brought from home - but when I brought it, she decided she wanted yogurt instead. There wasn't any yogurt left, so she settled for applesauce and half of a peanut butter cookie that I had "stolen" from the church's coffee hour. She enjoyed that and when I helped her wash up and put on face cream in anticipation of bed, she thanked me and seemed more relaxed than I'd seen her in a while.
Meanwhile back home, Dad plopped down into his reclining chair and turned on the television. He seemed like a deflated balloon, with most - but not all of - the air gone. I made a nice dinner: pork chops, mashed potatoes, broccoli. At dinner, he seemed really tired too. He enjoyed the food, at least until he choked on a piece of pork chop. Thankfully, he handled it himself because my knowledge of CPR is 0. Then, when he came back to the table he suggested that we cut up the leftover pork chop into tiny pieces so we could put it in soup. My dad is only 78, but his teeth aren't great and he's been waiting for his dentures to be adjusted for several weeks now.
As I sat there at the table waiting for him to return from the bathroom, where he'd gone to deal with his choking, I thought about all the things that we have to lose in old age, no matter how relatively healthy we may be. My father, who I will do a whole posting on soon, is physically pretty healthy. He has a bad back, middling teeth, and some cognitive decline. Just like my mom he has good days and bad days; good mornings, bad evenings; good nights, bad nights. And, when I thought about that, I thought about the waxing and waning of the moon and a wave of tenderness swept over me, as I thought about how so many things are beyond my parents control now and how they never know for sure what each new day will bring. (Speaking of which, my sister just phoned and my mom is throwing up because her morning therapy was so grueling: 2.5 hours, that after lunch came she promptly threw it up. I'll be on my way there soon.)
Which brings me to what the "take away" from all this is. Here's a few things I've decided.
- Be mindful. Observe before acting, unless it is an emergency.
- Be kind. Kindness goes a long way for those who are grieving the loss of so many things.
- Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Think before speaking. (The hardest thing for me to do.)
- And, whenever you can, try a little tenderness. It works for old people just as well as it does for young girls.