Posted tagged ‘Growing old’

Heading Towards Medicare

December 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 5, 2018

                              

The secret is out! Five months from today I turn 65! Everybody and their mom seems to know about it. Not a day goes by, except Sunday, where my mailbox is void of at least one reminder that my Big Day is coming!

I snickered for a while at the amount of mail my wife received with reminders that she was approaching 65. That was back in June and July (Her milestone happens this Saturday!) But I’m past the snickering and chuckling as the daily trip to the mailbox has me finding someone else who has discovered what happens to me on May 5. 

It’s a little disconcerting to know how many insurance companies and agents have this personal information. I’m guessing that if there is money to be made they will find out. I wish other information that I long for certain people to know was as widely known. Like…someone contacting me about when Blue Bell ice cream is going to go on sale…at least two weeks from now! that way I can better plan out my daily consumption rate instead of eating a half-gallon all at once! That would be useful info for me.

Or…even more vital…when my favorite stool at Starbucks isn’t occupied! Recently there’s been a guy who has already taken it by the time I arrive early in the morning. Yesterday I asked one of the baristas to notice when his arrival time is so I can beat him to the spot. This morning I arrived at 7:08. The barista told me he got here at 6:58. It would be great to find out seat availability so I don’t have to adjust! I don’t sound bitter, do I?

All the advance information about turning 65 has me a bit concerned. Kind of like getting information from different colleges during my senior year of high school. Each school of higher education tried to make you believe it was a slice of heaven, but then I arrived in the fall of 1972 and found out freshmen English Composition was closer to hell! 

All this advance stuff about Medicare has me a bit nervous. Will it be more like a birthday celebration dinner or a scheduled colonoscopy?

Senior Adult Television Network

August 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   August 9, 2018

                          

There is a plethora of television channels that I can flip through on my cable system. Most of them are worthless! Just sayin’!

In the midst of this chasm of blah-blah-blah there is a noticeable void. Well, maybe more noticeable to me as I creep further into the amazing 60’s of my life! The gap is the absence of a television network devoted to senior citizens. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice…or we’d simply forget!

There are 46 million people in the United States who are 65 years of age and older! 46 million!!! There’s a lot of beans in that pot!

I got to thinking about the programming possibilities and the ideas flowed through me smoother than my last bottle of Ensure.

Here’s the sample Monday programming lineup:

7 AM- The Iron Skillet- Cooking the old way! My Mamaw Helton would be proud! I can smell the bacon…and the eggs frying in the bacon grease! 

7:30- The Cholesterol Physician- An actual doctor who specializes in treating people with high cholesterol because of their tendency to consume bacon and eggs for breakfast.

8:00- Old News!

8:30- Senior Discounts- The deals that go unnoticed, like free foot massages on Mondays and the cheapest places to get your hair colored.

9:30- The Andy Griffith Show! Self-explanatory.

10:00- Gunsmoke! Even more self-explanatory

11:00- Wyngate- A reality TV show based on the actual senior adult independent living complex my dad lived at the last three years of his life. Drama, humor, field trips for the residents, slow fire drills, groans and gripes with an amazing cast of real characters.

12:00- New Old News

12:30- Senior Bowling League- The best geriatric bowlers in the country compete for fame and glory.

2:00- As The World Turns- Got to throw one of those soap operas in. I remember that some of my aunts revolved their days and lunch hours around “the soaps.” 

3:00- The RV Reverend- Reverend Roger ministers to the elderly residents of an Arizona RV park. 

4:00- Senior Scambuster- Mr. Smith investigates, informs, and exposes the growing number of scams aimed at senior folk. 

5:00- World News Tonight for Seniors

6:00- America’s Got Mature Talent- Sometimes talent doesn’t emerge until a person passes sixty. Who will be judged to be the most talented elderly performer?

7:00- Penny Mason- The niece of the great defense attorney continues her uncle’s legacy of defending the falsely accused and revealing who the real murderers are.

8:00- Snowbirds in Paradise- What happens when a retired couple from North Dakota decide to spend their winter months in the south Texas town of Paradise. The plot line of every episode revolves around the couple not understanding what their new Texas neighbors are saying!

9:00- Slowing Down- In a world where people are infatuated with speed the stories from the other side, how people are going slow to do amazing things.

10:00- Octogenarian Odysseys- The amazing life journeys of those now in their 80’s, stories to give hope to those of us approaching that period of life.

11:00 Symphony Music for Insomniacs- Just the music, no picture!

And that’s just one day! I haven’t even gotten to “Gaming From the Rocker Recliner!” and “Replacements Who Are Really Hip!”

As you can see, the possibilities are almost as endless as the throbbing pain in my knees and hips. By the year 2060 the senior population is estimated to be 98 million! We desire our place, our station! 

Aging Parents From Five States Away

May 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             May 21, 2017

                      

My dad turns 89 on June 18! Unfortunately, on May 18 he was a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia! He will continue to be there for two or three more days as he deals with a heart situation and limited strength.

And I am five states and two time zones away…in Colorado! My sister, nominated by me for sainthood, lives close by and keeps watch over Pops. I am so thankful for her tireless efforts to make sure he is okay. She has her own younger family generations to keep watch over, including seven grandkids, but she always finds the time to check in on Dad.

The assuredness of her on-site supervision gives me some degree of peace, but not totally. I’m experiencing what so many adult children are going through…living a long distance from their elderly parents. Some families move mom or dad, or both, close to where they live. Sometimes that works, but often it’s the worst solution. To move Mom or Dad away from where their peers live is usually emotionally and socially damaging.

Having my sister two miles away from Dad, and my brother about a three hour drive away, means I don’t have to worry about moving Dad to high-elevation Colorado. That thankful solution, however, does not eliminate the sense of helplessness. Carol and I will be flying back to Ohio in just about three weeks- being there for his 89th!- but each day of separation from my father includes an ongoing element of emotional anxiety. A question wraps itself around my mind: Is he okay today?

There was a time when we wanted distance from our parents. They were impeding our independence. They would ask us embarrassing questions in front of our friends, like “When are you going to be home?” We didn’t want to hear any more of their questions. In our opinion, they didn’t know anything! They were old-fashioned and not understanding of the times. Many of us went through that phase. We wanted to go away to college…so they wouldn’t see some of the things we wanted to do!

But then we hit the mid-twenties and had kids! And suddenly we had the questions and we needed them for answers as we entered the new territory of parenthood. The public library had books on parenting, but nothing came even close to the wisdom of our parents. They counseled us through those “life lab” situations.

Like a light switch we’ve flipped back and forth with our parents as life circumstances have changed, from dependent to independent to dependent to independent…

Perhaps at this time in my dad’s life, in a strange way, I’m even more dependent on him. He is the solution to my helplessness. My emotional wellness is dependent on knowing he is okay and cared for. That comes from the memories of experiences. Dad taught me how to ride a bicycle and a few years later how to drive. He taught me how to mow the lawn and how to tie a neck tie. He became my mom’s caregiver as she struggled with health problems. He modeled a walk with Christ, taught Sunday School for years and was, and is, a deacon.

It does something to you when you go to the cemetery with one of your parents, see where the other parent has already been laid to rest, and see the name of the one still standing beside you already on the grave marker. It hits you deep in your soul that these days with him are precious and few in number.

In reflection, I am thankful for these feelings I have of helplessness. They are the dividends of relational investment.

Dad-Sitting

February 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 4, 2017

                                       

My dad has had a January to forget. Two weeks in the hospital…one week home…and then back in the hospital for another week. He loved the nurses, but disliked the meatloaf.

So I had the opportunity to fly in for a few days and be with him. My dad turns 89 in about four months. He’s no spring chicken! In fact, his spring sprung a while ago. The times I’m able to come back to the southern tip of Ohio from the elevation of Colorado are special, deeply personal, and filled with shared stories.

Yesterday I walked with him down to the dining room of his senior adult apartment complex. A slow walk, but a steady walk. When he arrived he made the rounds, giving a hug to each of the women who, I swear, all initiated the embrace. He shook the hands of each man before setting down at a table with two of his peers, Leo and Dale. It was Dad’s first meal taken in the midst of the gathered “white hairs”, and it brought a sense of exhilaration to the 25 or so. He is loved and appreciated, always ready to give a warm word of greeting and an engaging question.

Then it was back to his apartment to sit and talk. Three days earlier I had “grandbaby-sat” for a two year old. Now I was “Dad-sitting” a man who was almost twenty-six when I was born!

We shared stories about teaching, his military service, Kentucky basketball, and all the nice nurses who cared for him at the hospital. Our conversation wound its way through the many rooms of our lives, one door leading towards the next one on the other side of the story.

I told him stories from my recent three-week teaching stint and the one student that I sent to have a chat with the assistant principal, and he told me about the student who he had a difficult  time with when he was student teaching high school agricultural science.

We got on the topic of security guards at schools, banks, and other places, and he recalled the pre-security days at the Social Security Administration office he managed…the times when an irate citizen had to be calmed down simply with words, not a Taser gun!

We have a way in our culture of devaluing our older folks, minimizing their relevance and becoming deaf to their voices. Thankfully I’ve come to the point of seeing how treasured my life is because of the father I have. The occasions of “Dad-sitting” are dwindling, shared moments waning, and I breathe each one of them in as if they are my last sip on water in a long journey.

Tomorrow I’ll watch the Super Bowl with Dad. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl we watched together! It may actually be the first time we’ll share the moment. The game will become secondary to just being together. I’m sure we’ll laugh at some of the commercials and take bathroom breaks while Lady GaGa is being a spectacle. We’ll talk about the Cleveland Browns of the 60’s, the Ironton High School Fighting Tigers, and recall when my big brother came back from an away game that the Williamstown High School football team had played on a Friday night and said to Dad, “Look Dad! Real mud!”

We will simply sit and enjoy the moment. The depth of life is made from moments like these.

Cake For Seniors

June 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 22, 2016

                                         

They were ready to pounce. The ladies and man (as in solo!) at Dad’s birthday party were ready for the cake. If my dear Aunt Lizzie, who always stared at her wrapped Christmas present like it was a Rembrandt, had been there she would have said “It’s too pretty to cut into!” But Aunt Lizzie arrived in Glory a couple of decades ago so she wasn’t there to hold back the cake lovers.

Dad’s cake, with two eights rising out of it, was a tribute to his University of Kentucky roots. The white icing was outlined in Kentucky blue, which is much easier on the eyes than “Tarheel Blue!” He stood behind it and gave one forced puff to extinguish the small flames on the two eights. Blowing out two candles is not seen as being much of an accomplishment, unless you are surrounded by a crowd of seniors who are all crowding ninety!

There was applause for the disappearance of the candle flames, and Robin, the lady who my dad loves and trusts with a knife, commenced to cutting. I passed out the plates. No one passed on the cake. Tongues were licking the outside of lips even before the cake arrived in front of the partygoers. Seniors like cake. It is seen as a valid. almost mandatory, reason for disregarding their dietary restrictions.

Conversation eased a bit as the mature audience focused on their next bites. There’s a time to talk and there’s a time to be quiet. If white icing is involved hold on to that story that was in the midst of being told. We’ll get back to it… if we remember!

My dad looked out at the people gathered in the dining room and he smiled. These were people who were a part of his journey. One of them he had taught how to give insulin shots to. She was scared to death and he had coached her to the point where she could do it herself. Another lady, Valerie, who works at his senior apartment complex, had come back from her Myrtle Beach vacation a day early to be in attendance…and to show the envious women that her skin tone had undergone a noticeable change. The senior women, who had talked about getting bikinis, now recognized that the cake they were enjoying was not going to help them look “bikinish!” Some of them were thinking that they would just ease off the carrots at dinner to compensate!

Dad appreciated each one of them. He had a stack of cards, some beautifully written and others filled with jokes about being as old as Methuselah! He laughed and thanked and paused to enjoy. The only hurry in the occasion was getting the cake cut. After that, people had nowhere to go but to finish reading the Saturday Herald-Dispatch, check the mail, and sink into afternoon slumber in their recliners.

The rest of the cake was moved to the kitchen, and would be served at dinnertime. The ladies  smiled at the future sweet offering. It would make the dinner spaghetti seem tolerable.

Dad was filled with joy and gratitude. After he had blown out the candles someone had asked him what he wished for, and with his quick wit he had replied, “Eighty-nine!”

The ladies “amen-ed” that. It would mean another cake!

The Graying of the Matter

April 12, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. April 12, 2012

There is no easy way to growing older. We can talk about getting wiser, but the arthritis often dulls our sense of sharpness. We can talk about maturity, but the increase in the number of pill bottles in our medicine cabinet seems to go with it. We can talk about the glory days of retirement, but the “getting re-tired” every day is a footnote to that page of our life.
And then there is the struggle associated with seeing your parents in the winter of their lives. I’m back in Ohio for a couple of weeks visiting my mom and dad. My mom spent the past five months in a full care center, until my Dad decided he was going to bring her back home and have home health care nurses come each day to provide six to eight hours of care. He and my sister are filling in the gaps. It’s costly, and has its hard moments, but Dad seems to be much happier that his soul mate is back with him at home.
My mom has a form of Parkinson’s that significantly reduces her ability to communicate and to comprehend. This morning she asked me where I stayed last night. I told her the guest bedroom, and she responded “Where’s that at?”
But at other times she seems to mostly understand what is going on!
It is a tough part of many tough elements in the aging process. She is partially with it and partially not with it. Each question…each conversation…each facial expression…carries with it the question…”Is she aware or not aware?”
My mom still gives me “the look”, the look that makes me search back over what I’ve said like a kid who has just unknowingly spilled the beans about a transgression he thought would never have to be revealed. But now “the look” is filled with confusion and disconnection.
In many ways it would be easier if Mom was totally not there or totally there. There would be no guessing and uncertainty. Each moment would be pre-defined.
Her “graying” brings pauses in the conversation. I’m asking myself “Did she understand? Is she searching for a response?”
I noticed during my last visit in December that a couple of the nurses erroneously thought that she had a hearing problem. My mom’s hearing is 20/20! I know that’s a vision calculation, but that’s the best way I can let you know that she hears everything…even when you’re whispering. With the nurses her lack of giving a timely answer was simply due to her trying to connect the dots in her mind.
While I’m here I’m sure that I will have some good, but brief, glimpses of conversation with her, but also some awkward pauses. The awkward pauses will bring me back to my childhood moments when it was best to not say anything and just listen.
And I’ll treasure the moments…the grayness…the uncertainty!