Posted tagged ‘Old age’

Between A Stride And A Shuffle

June 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 2, 2018

                                 

My quest to run 200 miles this summer began a week and a half ago. I’m 30 miles into it, which sounds impressive until you realize there’s still 170 miles in front of me. Translated that means I’ll be running all the way to New Mexico!

I’m getting my wind back after it had taken a hiatus for about 14 years. In the summer of 2004 I trained and ran the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for lunatics, during which the runners make an 8,000 foot elevation climb after starting at 6,000 feet. After I ran the Ascent for a second time I put the running shoes in the closet…the deepest parts of the closet!

Now I’m back at it…slowly! I was talking to a close friend of mine last night and he asked me whether I shuffle or stride when I run? 

Good question! In my mind I’m striding out, but it’s the same mind that envisions me slam dunking a basketball and waking up in the morning with no aches or pains!

In reality I’m probably between a stride and a shuffle…between what I was and what I will be! My swiftness is becoming a more distant hazy spot in my past, replaced by the slow motion of the present.

It is a picture of life. I’m like the Israelites between Egypt and the Promised Land. I’m between the here and the there. When I have my annual physical exam each fall my doctor often uses the phrase “You are no longer…” to remind me I’m heading towards the point where I’ll be an old man shuffling. He says it kindly and with a grin, but each of us know the truth of life’s withering moments. 

There are good things about life’s aging. 

Carol and I have the Senior Pass to the National Parks now. We can get in any one of them free.

I can drop off to sleep after reading one page in any book…or sooner!

People think I’m wise since I’m almost a shuffler!

Many, many good things about the golden years!

For now, however, I’m more of a “striffler”, a hybrid between striding and shuffling. Perhaps I’ll get my second wind. The question is whether I’ll be able to catch it? 

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.

Adventures In Substitute Teaching: Old Mr. Wolfe

May 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 10, 2017

                     

I have nicknames for many of the students I substitute teaching for. I’ve been in their classrooms enough that having a Mr. Wolfe-created nickname is a badge of honor…sorta’!

Bryson has become Bison, Marina gets called Marinara, Alex is Arby’s, Josh with his man-bun is “Pimple Head”, Jonah has become “Goat” (His choice! He says it is an acronym for “Greatest of all the rest!” I pointed out to him that the acronym would then be “Goatr!” He gives me a blank look…like a goat!)

I rattle off group nicknames also, like “Fruit Loops”, “Munchkins”, and “Space Cadets.”

Evidently, turn about is fair play, because a day of subbing in 7th Grade Science produced a new nickname for the teach!

Back in my high school days I was nicknamed “Beowulf” when my sophomore English class was studying the old story. “Bill Wolfe”… “Beowulf”…it stuck to me like a fly on a fly strip. In due time it got shortened to simply “Beo.” People I went to high school 45 years ago…no, it can’t be that long!…still call me “Beo.”

On this day of science discovery a new name was delivered my way. As my first class began trudging into the portable classroom of my friend, Ronnie McKinney (whose uncreative nickname is “McKinney!”), the pre-bell chatter began. One of the students who I had nicknamed “Abnormal” (Abigail is her real name) asked me how tall I was. I responded with “5’6” and 1/2.” Then I added, with a note of pride, “However, I used to be 5’8”!”

“So you’ve shrunk?”

“Unfortunately!”

Another young lady who I nicknamed “Camm-ay” (from Cammie), saying her name like she’s French, joined in the conversation. Since I refer to her as “Camm-ay”, she calls me “Wolf-ay!”

“Wolf-ay! You’ve shrunk?”

Another young lady, Ky-lay joins in. “Like a grape!” Wolf-ay is like a raisin!” Everyone laughs, and I even chuckle about the personalized humor.

“Wolf-ay has become all wrinkled!”

“It happens!” I admit.

Three minutes later as the class is about to begin there is laughter by the white board at the front of the class. I know something is up. I didn’t graduate from high school with a 2.4 GPA because I was stupid, mind you! I gaze at the board as the students clear out of the way. Camm-ay has drawn two pictures with a dry erase marker. The first one is an oval shaped figure with two stick legs. The picture is labeled with the words “Young Wolf-ay!” The second picture is also an oval shaped figure, but a bit leaner with a few lines squiggled through it. It’s a raisin! And the name beside it is “Old Wolf-ay!”

I chuckle at their humor aimed lovingly at me. During the course of the day and since I’ve been referred to as “Old Wolf-ay” and “Raisin” quite often.

Even as I write this I’m picturing the drawings…and I’m still chuckling!

Leaving Pops

February 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            February 11, 2017

                                           

Five days with my dad…not a lot of time, but deeply meaningful.

I flew into the massive Charleston, West Virginia airport on Thursday afternoon. Dad came home from another time-share experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington the previous Tuesday evening. When I knocked on the door of his apartment at Wyngate Senior Living Complex, heard the invitation to come on in, I was taken back by the tubes he had in his nostrils receiving oxygen. He looked a bit frail and “dragged out”, as he would say!

We chatted about this, that, and the other, soothed by the ointment of each other’s presence. After an hour or so it was time to let him be for the night. We had seen each other after an absence of about eight months. It was almost like checking in on one another to make sure we were okay, and now we could sleep.

The next day when I walked into his apartment I was taken back again, but this time in a good way! He didn’t have the oxygen machine going. He looked like he was “with it”, the familiar smile authentic and inviting.

“How’d you sleep, Pops?”

“I slept like a baby! Went to bed about 10:30 and didn’t wake up until 5:30!” Seven hours! My dad hadn’t been able to sleep for seven hours straight since he was…was…was probably in his seventies! Getting all the body parts of an almost 89 year old body to cooperate at the same time is on the same scale as getting all of Congress to agree!

“That’s awesome, Dad!”

Well-rested conversation flows much better than dragged-out dialogue. We talked about new great-grandchildren and grandchildren, “remember when” moments and tall tales of previous aunts and uncles.

“Are you going to have lunch with me?”

“Sure! Are you going to eat in the dining room?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t ventured down the hallway to the dining room of the complex since he had come home from St. Mary’s. He grabbed his “hurry-cane” and we headed down towards the room of wisdom and crankiness.

The residents who had arrived before him recognized his re-emergence from his isolation. Smiles and greetings floated his way, and he made the rounds to each table hugging the widow ladies and shaking the hands of the few men scattered around. We sat with Chuck, who hears about as well as someone on one side of the Ohio River listening to conversation on the opposite bank. Dale joined us, parking his motorized scooter in a spot close to another. Navigating through the scooter and the walkers in the dining room was like driving through a Walmart parking lot! Chuck could walk, but not hear. Dale could hear, but not walk! Senior complexes are a pantry of can’s and “can’ts”!

Meeting Dale and Chuck, as well as others, opened up hours of shared stories from Dad. I learned once again about Carl, who had been born four miles from where Dad had been born in eastern Kentucky, and is a constant source of encouragement for Dad; and Leo, who had been at the same Navy basic training camp with Dad and Carl in Williamsburg, Virginia.

We revisited the story of Leo setting off the fire alarm about a year earlier because he was frying bacon in his apartment at 9:00 on a Friday night. We laughed about the possibility of motorized scooter races in the parking lot. We paused to remember Nellie, the lady who lived in the apartment next door, who Dad had taught to give herself insulin shots. Nellie had passed away a few months before.

Each day of my brief visit followed this path of remembrance and revelation. Super Bowl LI was the first Super Bowl my dad and I watched together. Awesome!

And then Monday night I said my goodbyes. His embrace contained strength and joy. It seemed as if each day had been a step of progression for him.

Whenever I say goodbye to my father I realize it could be our last visit, our last embrace, our last walk down the hallway…and I treasure the moments of the stroll!

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.

The Morning After…Watching The Grandkids

August 2, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 2, 2016

                              

It’s the morning after supervising the three grandchildren for ten hours. I’m feeling the effects!

First of all, there’s my speech pattern! I’m talking in one and two word phrases, and repeating them two or three times. For instance, I stood in front of the refrigerator this morning looking at the containers of orange and apple juice and saying to myself “Juice! Juice! Juice!” I said it non-audibly to my inner self, but I said it with the voice of my sixteen month old granddaughter.

The morning proceeded.

“Waffle! Waffle! Waffle!”

“Keys! Keys! Keys!”

“Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!”

I’m afraid I’ll carry this toddler stream of repetitive verbiage too far. How will Carol react when she comes home from an errand and I greet her with “Hi Wife! Hi Wife!”? Or what if I discover the Half-and-Half container at Starbucks is empty and I carry the container to the counter shouting “Cream! Cream! Cream!”? I may never be able to go back to that Starbucks where I’ve been seen as a responsible adult for the last several years.

Really! Really! Really!

I’m looking at Pike’s Peak right now and saying to myself “Big! Big! Big!” This afternoon when I lay down for a nap I just hope I don’t whine “Pac-i!” Pac-i! Pac-i!”, as in “pacifier!”

The second after effect is my body whining to me. My lower back is reminding me that I’m not a young man anymore. Every time the grand baby looked up at me and said “Up! Up! Up!”, I obliged. Is there rehab therapy for grandparents? My arm muscles feel like I’ve done a full weight training workout at the Y.M.C.A. Actually, it has just been a day of squat thrusts and arm curls with a twenty-two pound weight! I thought I would sleep soundly last night out of exhaustion, but instead I tossed and turned in pain. I’m hoping I have the strength to fix lunch!, lunch!, lunch! I’m now speaking to myself again and thinking of my massage therapist, Jackie Landers. “Massage! Massage! Massage!”

Finally, the third after effect is a different kind of feeling whatsoever. It’s a feeling…a realization of blessedness! In the midst of one word demands and tried muscles I know without a doubt that I am a blessed man, a graced granddad! As I wrote in a blog post a few days ago, I am in marvel of the little ones! They make me feel young at heart even as I feel the age of  my body. I actually get a little emotional thinking about them.

Today is our five year old granddaughter Reagan’s first day of kindergarten. Jesse, our eight year old grandson starts third grade. They amaze me even as they cause me to need a nap. They have amazing parents who keep them grounded in the Word, on-course with figuring out what is appropriate and what isn’t, and immersed in unconditional love.

So even as my speech pattern has changed today and my body has gone south I wouldn’t change anything. To my heavenly Father I say the two words that the toddler does not repeat, but rather only says once as I hand her the sip cup full of juice.

“Thank you!”

 

A False Sense of Reality

July 16, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  July 16, 2016

                                     

I’ve been watching a lot of the NBA Summer League games on TV this past week. New draft choices playing alongside D-League players and undrafted free agents, it is an entertaining experience. Next summer I’m thinking about going to Las Vegas with my son and taking in a few of the games being played.

Last night I watched some rim-rocking slams, long-distance threes, and running left hooks.

And then, feeling the energy, I went out in our driveway with “the rock”, as we call the basketball, and started shooting from the corner. I shoot from the corner in our driveway because it slopes down. It’s like an automatic ball return!

As I dribbled the ball and got into my shooting motion reality hit me! Reality came in the form of my right knee whining as it bent…and screamed as it started to unbend! It was the meeting of my mind with my knee and my knee won. Sixty-two year old knees that have run a few marathons, run thousands of miles on asphalt pavements with some of the old running shoes we used to wear, and played years and years of basketball, are knees that now succeed in daily coups against the rest of my body. I say “Let’s play some hoop down at the Y!” and my knees say “I don’t think so!” They are like stubborn octogenarians who refuse to drink their Ensures!

My life seems to have increasing times of false senses of reality. What I envision happening gets a revised plan. It’d like a teenager about to get his first car. He searches the internet web sites, looking at Camaro’s, Jeeps, BMW’s, high-powered Mustangs, and man-sized trucks, and then his parents present him with a gift-wrapped Ford Escort with strips of duct tape on it in different places.

Dreams…expectations…assumptions…and then there comes the reality!

My dream is to slam dunk! My reality is that you can now barely fit one piece of typing paper under my feet when I elevate. The positive however is that it doesn’t take me nearly as long to return to the ground.

Our lives are filled with what we think and what is real.

Remember a time in your growing up years when you had a crush on a certain person and you believed the attraction was mutual. Perhaps you even envisioned in your mind those walks in the park when you would be holding hands, embracing in the shadows of the front porch where parents could not see…and then the reality coming in the form of information that there wasn’t a mutual attraction, and, in fact, you were to leave the other person alone. Stay away! Sometimes reality is like getting slapped in the face with the end of a wet towel that snaps you.

Those are moments in our lives that, plain and simple, just suck!

My knees are just one indication, one painful reminder, that things change. Life is a journey of adjustments. Those adjustments come through afflictions as well as learnings. They come as a result of years of doing something that has left us weary and disillusioned; and they come as we experience the cresting of a new hill that shows us something completely new that we might consider attempting.

Most of us have visited that false sense of reality at one time or another. It comes in a job performance evaluation, or a frank conversation with a trusted friend. It is often hard to hear.

Back to my knees! I shot a few shots, listened to a few internal knee screams, and then went back to the couch. My right knee especially said “This is where you belong!”

I sighed and then watched a 22 year old do a reverse slam dunk on TV!