Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Not for Sissies - Reynolds
Brenda and I are both getting a bit hard of hearing, “normal for our ages.” Sometimes I will want to say something to her, “Brenda!” No response. So I’ll say it a bit louder. “Brenda!” Now, hearing me, she will turn and say, “Yes.” By that time, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say to her.
“The Golden Age” they call it in commercials. But those who have the “Gold Card” (as it’s called here in British Columbia) know that old age is not for sissies. Failing eyesight, hearing problems, failing strength, aching joints, hardening of the arteries, and of course forgetfulness. (Personally, my more minor complaints are very biblical – a stiff neck, weak knees, and a fibrillating heart.) These realities are the theme of many “old folks” jokes, especially loss of memory.
There is the story of the pastor, calling on an elderly parishioner, who asked her if she ever thought about the hereafter. “O yes,” she blithely replied, “Very often. I go upstairs and wonder what I came up here after.”
For myself, I can hardly go from one side of the kitchen to the other without stopping to wonder what I was looking for. Or I’ll open the fridge door looking for something, stop and try to remember what I was looking for, only to remember in a minute or two that what I wanted is in a cupboard, not the fridge.
I used to say that our memories are fine, as good as they ever were. It’s just that we worry more about them. I must admit though that it takes me longer to remember the name of a flower or a friend. Meeting someone on the street or at the doctor’s office, I desperately try to remember his or her name. Finally, five minutes after they’ve gone, I remember it. Sometimes, I remember the name just as I’m walking away. On these occasions, I will turn and look back and call out loudly, “Good bye, George!” (Or Dan, or Sam, whatever it may be.)
Talking about doctors (weren’t we?), think of the amount of time we spend visiting doctors (professionally, of course). We are fortunate to have a “GP,” a family doctor; the generalist whose most desirable quality is knowing when to refer to a specialist. Specialists come in many varieties. At the moment, I boast, beside my faithful GP, a cardiologist, urologist, ear-eye-nose-and throat specialist, dermatologist, neurology and endocrinologist, even a foot specialist for something called Planter’s Fasciitis. Over the course of recent years, I had hospital stays, trips to emergency, and a growth taken off my nose so big they had to take a piece of my ear to plug up the hole in my nose. (Unfortunately, my nose is as big as ever.)
Between hospital stays, visits to doctors, day surgeries, plus going to the bathroom, there is little time left for necessary exercises. I go three times a week to a Heart Wellness Clinic (“old farts with healthy hearts”), and then I do stretches at home each day (and I am pretty faithful). I seem to need ten hours sleep at night plus a nap in the afternoon. There’s no time left for living.
A lively topic of conversation, when seniors meet, is the number of pills each has to imbibe daily. Personally, I am down to three for my heart, beside the one for an over-active bladder (how nicely put), then another for constipation caused by the pill I take for an over-active bladder. Then beyond prescriptions, there is the usual variety of multi-vitamins and the supplements, like calcium with Vitamin D (to keep my legs from aching at night). I’ve told Brenda that I don’t care how long I continue to live, as long as I have my mind and my stomach, and of course no more aches and pains than are tolerable.
It’s a time however when humour helps a lot. A good laugh is necessary for the senior years. Here are some making the rounds (probably have been making the rounds for years).
Story one – a man, visiting an elderly couple, noted how during the meal the husband always referred to his wife with terms of endearment: “Honey,” “Darling,” etc. While the wife, in good old-fashioned style, was getting dessert, the visitor remarked on this to his old friend, who replied, “To tell the truth, I haven’t been able to remember her name for months.”
Story two – two elderly couples in conversation, one of the men was boasting of a recent course he had taken in “recall” (to help him remember!) Finally the other, suitably impressed, asked for the name of the course. After a few minutes, trying to remember the name of the course, he turned back to his friend and said, “What’s the name of that flower, the one with thorns on the stem?” “Rose?” asked the friend. “Yes,” he replied. Then turning to his wife he said, “Rose, what’s the name of that memory course I took?”
Story three – two elderly women in a nursing home were having a nice conversation when an old man streaked by, stark naked. One woman turns to the other and says, “What was that?” “I don’t know,” the other replied, “but it sure needed ironing.”
Unlike many seniors, I don’t mind the thought of going into a “care facility” as long as my family come to see me, keep an eye on me to see that the staff don’t leave me lying on the floor all night, or in a light night gown in front of an open February window. I don’t want unnecessary medication (easy to say at this point in time), and when I come to die, I hope for someone who loves me to hold my hand and perhaps to pray and read some of my favourite passages from the Bible.
As we say, old age is “no time for sissies!” It is a time, however, when faith become more and more important, not only because we are closer to our own death, but also for enduring the trials and struggles of each day. (There is also the story of the little girl who asked her friend why her grandmother was always reading the Bible. She replied, “I guess she’s cramming for her finals.”)
The following is taken from a little book -- Good Grief, by Granger Westberg, a Lutheran minister (on the faculty of the University of Illinois Medical School when the book was written). He writes,
I am convinced of the importance of keeping at the task of nurturing one's faith because I have seen how such people demonstrate greatness under trial. Conversely, I now have seen what happens to people who have not taken seriously the necessity of working at their faith when life was good. These people seem unprepared to handle even the smaller losses which all of us face from time to time. . . .
At the time of great loss, people who have a mature faith give evidence of an uncommon relationship with God. They demonstrate an uncommon inner sense of strength and poise which grows out of their confidence that such a relationship with God can never be taken away from them. With such a basic philosophy they can face any earthly loss with the knowledge that they still have not lost everything. They still have God on whom to rely. I have come to see that this way of looking at life makes an amazing difference in the quality of their experience.
(Granger Westberg, Good Grief, pp. 50 & 51)
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