Monday, September 17, 2012
WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?
It all seemed to happen overnight. Those top shelves in the kitchen got higher – didn’t they? Now I have trouble changing my bed and reading paperbacks whose print gets smaller and smaller every year. They have made bottle and jar caps smaller and tighter I’m sure as well as making the contents just a tad less than they used to – but, hey, the price, for a smaller amount has gone UP!
Then there are the more important – I consider them losses: my favorite foods, the spicier the better don’t agree with me anymore; I was quietly going blind until my good doctor removed those things called cataracts (after they got “ripe” enough). Now I can see that my housekeeping skills went the way of my digestion, that is until the cataract removal I thought my house was, as usual, meticulously maintained. Has that skill gone the way of so many skills? I found out that I could know the name of my favorite breads one day and draw a blank the next. Until 3 in the morning, that is.
Visiting in the South, I discovered that I was easily recognized as a Yankee. I walked too fast. And here I thought the local inhabitants were “lollygagging”! They moved so slowly that I had to dodge around them to get anywhere. That wonderful fun of quick motion, of running up and down stairs or taking them two at a time, I see now on TV characters. The transition to a cane and then a walker with a basket/seat really did sneak up on me.
Other little things I’m losing, my teeth for one. I refused “false” ones. I just don’t eat nuts anymore. I got a food processor to grind my favorite cold cereal down to softer bits that I can sprinkle on the top of the yogurt or oatmeal. Oatmeal? My father used to have it every morning when he got old. It’s not so bad. SteaK? I’ve learned how to make a “scraped beef” sandwich using soft oatmeal bread. I quite like the “oatmeal” part in that. And I’d rather not talk about hair loss, I who used to have thick, abundant tresses.
I have graced the Salvation Army with closets of clothes. Saving them after a few years, the thought of ever fitting into them ever again was a joke. Gave up my gym membership. Not only was it too difficult using the equipment with my cane, but there was an incontinence problem too – I simply could not use the pool under those circumstances.
Those are among the losses of old age I’m told. In my arrogance I thought most of the other residents were a breed apart from me. They walked slowly and forgot a lot – especially when they were talking, needed their grown children to drive them here and there, needed a woman to come and clean for them at least once a week, spent their time either going to the doctor, to movies, eating out, playing cards and bingo (for heaven’s sake), making jigsaw puzzles, reading novels and “chatting” (aka gossiping) with each other and taking walks with their walkers up and down the halls. Well, guess what? Little by little, I found some of those funny traits in myself. Must be the proximity of my neighbors.
It was a loss when after my hip replacement I could no longer ride my horse, but I could stand long enough to groom her or take her for a really short walk. And I could still do two stairs at a time – for a while anyway. Unhappily I started going to the funerals of close friends and relatives. But the loss that was dreaded the most – and this is not funny – is the loss of my car, or my keys, of my independence, and ability to come and go when I feel like it. Unlike the great humiliation of many of the folks I know, my keys weren’t TAKEN from me. I decided to give driving up because I was having too many close calls on the road. Strangely I wasn’t worried about personal injury or damage to my vehicle. I had insurance after all. My terror was that a child or a pet could run into the road and my reactions be too slow to avoid them.
Now, to your great relief I’m sure, I have arrived at the whole point of my discussion. You, who have a beloved senior citizen who needs to stop driving be, gentle and remember the losses already suffered. If possible, bring them to their own conclusions about their safety, and that they are dearly loved and need to keep safe if only for you. Please be thoughtful of what giving up this very personal and important ability means to seniors. This is no time for impatience, or humiliating your elders. It is a time to recognize that they know that they are getting older, that deep down they know the dangers of driving when responses get slower, and that this is a major loss, one that is perhaps the most personal, most difficult one to accept. Be understanding, be gentle and, if you can, bring the Senior in your life to make this sacrifice, this very difficult decision, voluntarily.
As I finish sharing my thoughts, my experiences with you, I can still hear the tearful exclamations of one sweet old soul roaming the halls and looking for comfort from everyone she met “She gave my car away, she took my keys. Now I have nothing left.” Don’t let this be your dear loved one.