“Getting old is not for the faint of heart” says my Mom with a grim chuckle. She has just found out that one of her brothers has broken his hip – again – and another brother has been admitted to the hospital for indeterminate reasons – again.
Even as she worries about the health of her brothers, her own vigour has begun to diminish. At 86 years of age, she has begun to wobble when she walks and her legendary stamina has begun to wane. She no longer cross country skiis, having given that up two years ago, and she “only” plays bridge three times a week instead of seven. Her memory is patchy for recent events and details, but her ability to recollect all my childhood foibles is as good as it ever was.
She is still driving, but only along the streets close to her home. That means that grocery shopping, getting to the hairdresser, the bank, her doctor or to her friends’ homes are all daily options for independence and opportunities for social interaction. I really think if that were taken away from her, she would shrivel up into a reclusive shell and slowly fade away. But who knows how much longer she can continue to drive safely? Every day begins with a question mark around fatigue, energy and health.
In spite of all that, Mom remains determined to stay upbeat and optimistic. Yes, there are days when the weight of age and the impact on those she loves weighs her down. But somehow she manages to wake up the next morning, shake off her worries and turn her face to the light of a new day.
As I watch her, I realize how much courage and discipline that takes, for it would be very easy to allow all of the bad news to take hold and drag her down. Long gone are the days when the telephone would ring and good news was the norm. Instead, when the phone rings now, it is about someone passing away, being diagnosed with a terminal illness or giving up their house to go into a nursing home. How difficult must it be to pick up the phone with a feeling of dread and wonder who has been claimed today?
But life is not all doom and gloom. At least, not for Mom. She continues to look for fun, laughs at herself and her frailties and greets each day with a smile. Her sense of humour is getting a little macabre though – she tells me she won’t buy green bananas anymore – she may not be around to see them ripen.
Yep, aging is not for the faint of heart. Or for those who like to buy green bananas.