I have always loved the writings of Lewis Carroll. His "Alice in Wonderland" series was one of my favorites as a child and I was especially fond of the book, "Through the Looking Glass". I imagine it was because at some time or another, we all speculate what life must be like on the "other side", whether it be the looking glass, the fence, the computer, or this life.
Recently, I have had a look at what life on the other side of "healthy" and "young" is like and aging gracefully is something that I'm starting to believe only happens in Hollywood movies. Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty, but everything else seems to wear out, fall out or spread out. Taking care of aging parents is demanding, draining and if you're not careful, it can be downright depressing. I have always known the day would come when I would be responsible for taking care of my parents, but as with everything else in life, the day has come before I feel ready. Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to man, I suppose.
This journey I am on with my 76 year-old mother and my soon-to-be 89 year-old stepdad is not exactly "Hazel and Fred's Excellent Adventure". I am having to broach the HARD topics...like wills, nursing homes and Depends undergarments. Thankfully, no one is biting my head off, but it's probably because they know I could hide their teeth. We're all muddling along as best as we can through this process...and it is a process like no other.
I'm doing well if I can get my stepdad to eat anything besides ice cream and if I can get my mom to eat anything besides Dollar General brand vanilla sugar wafers. What I want to know is why weren't these things on the menu when I was a kid? I was always being told to eat my vegetables. My mom was so concerned about "roughage" and making sure I got enough of it so my "plumbing" would work properly. Now life has come full circle and it is me who is bribing her with cookies just so she will drink her daily glass of Metamucil. I want to make sure her "plumbing" doesn't require any additional assistance from me.
My stepdad, who bathes only when forced to, thinks it's a blast to walk around the house buck naked in the mornings. There's nothing else I can say about that.
Apparently, their investments in health insurance are starting to pay off. They have had more dates with their physicians than my husband and I had before we got married. Every week, we are off to see another wizard. Someone who runs tests, orders labs, and asks questions only to come up with the same answer, "You're old. This is what happens when people get old."
Some days I wish I could put the looking glass down and just listen to Jabberwocky.
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(originally posted 4/29/08)