My sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Frank Coy, had Mary and me over last night for a birthday supper celebrating my 72nd which is this next Thursday, July 19th. You can imagine what a great time the four of us had as we ate, laughed, talked and generally reminisced about our childhood and growing up years which included, as every one's history does, some great times and some sad times. By the way, the silhouette picture of the old people does NOT reflect any of the four of us who were there, it relates to what is about to be said. [Smile]
None of us could believe we've been around as long as we have or wound up being as old as we are. It was a fun visit with the four of us having a healthy time of laughter [and a few tear-like moments] over some of our history.
We talked of our parents, all of whom have died, with Mary's mother the only one still living. My own mother died at 90 years of age about three years ago and the memory of her condition the months before her death is still with me.
It got me to thinking about aging. It's tough getting older and, although I wouldn't personally change where I am right now for any other place I've ever been age-wise, honesty demands that I admit the fact that it is a little tough getting older. But what's even harder is caring for and dealing with older people as my sister and my brother and I did our mother, and Mary and her siblings are now doing with her mother.
One of the reasons I've found it to be hard is, I've found that older people [much older than am I of course] sometimes wind up in a condition that reminds me of what I would call, for lack of a better word, "child-likeness."
Our kids as children, if you can recall those days at our age, often had an inability to remember things, do things for themselves, though you couldn't convince them of that, even to think logically sometimes about the consequences of actions often times. But they were children back then after all.
Adults, who've gotten aged, can be a little like children it seems to me. But children they're not. Adults they remain, at least chronologically, and to give of yourself to an adult in that situation or to bear responsibility for them, is not easy by any means. What is the secret? I don't know, and I doubt there IS a "secret" since all situations differ greatly.
But I did notice some things while caring for my mother. The biggest thing may well have been recognizing the fact that she could NOT do some things for herself and had to be guided even assisted when she couldn't. And yet there was the need to respect her as an adult all the while. For instance, when occasions arose where decisions had to be made about her life and possessions, they were made, yet her ideas, opinions, and felt needs had to carry some weight, as long as possible, in the mix for there to be real respect.
This fine line is not easy to find, walk, or maybe even understand. But as I look back on my own mom's passing, I think it may have been part of the process that helped me and my siblings during that time when we bore responsibility for her in ways that we hadn't previously.
Obviously, to communicate to an aged person that they are sometimes like children would be self defeating and disrespectful. So don't tell them that at all is my counsel to you. But do carry an awareness of it in your own heart. I think that will tend to soften your heart, still your anxiousness, and maybe even help you smile at some things that otherwise could create consternation or even hurt.
It is not an easy task, this growing old. It's even harder to care for those getting older when that responsibility falls to you. But as the years go by it may be we all will be in need of some understanding and even some information to help us know how to help those who are aging. I'm thinking it needs to be talked about. So I'm talking.