Saturday, July 17, 2010

June bugs and Tidal waves

okay it's just a cool name and flows man.  snap snap.  daddy oh. 
really I'm not that lame but watching an old CSI while jump roping this afternoon made me all nostalgic for old Las Vegas okay old anything and LV is cool no matter when.  And I mean cool in a Neil Diamond, pug, Gerard Depardu sort of way.  Cheezy and quirky but if you get it - man - you get it.  smooth. 
Now that I am the caretaker of my MIL who is 93 and very very - oh so very f'n trying - but sweet and interesting and cool in her own right - I'm doing all this talking about days and times that frankly don't have George Michael or even gasp Miami Vice in the forefront.  We are talking the 30's, 40's and 50's and it's amazingly interesting!  I could listen to her stories (and yes I know at the 14th telling of the same story it may get old) forever.  She is still new to me and me to her.  We are getting to know each other.  I am the second wife and she is the second mother in law and though I loved (and still do) my first MIL we have to get to know the buttons and what to push and not to.

It's a dance she and I.  I serve and she dictates.  She is sad and afraid and in pain and unsure.  Me too.  She doesn't know what is going to happen to her.  Neither do I.  She is a bother and trouble and irritating to deal with.  Me too.  The difference is - I am 40 and my joints and bones and parts do what I tell them to do the millisecond that I say - her's don't.  She can't.  So she doesn't or she does and it's pain or she falls or she makes a mess and then this girl she really doesn't know (me) has to take care of it and she's embarrassed.  Because she can't.  She told me today that she used to be as strong as me when she was young.  And I believe it.  She was a Nebraska farm girl.  And then served with her husband in Hiroshima.  History is a bitch.  And cool as hell.  My life is surreal now but I wouldn't change it for anything because I get to know her.  And yeah she's a tough sell and demanding - but if I didn't get to know her I'd miss it.  I'd miss this person who I get to serve who tells me things I didn't know about the man I married that he doesn't know.  History would be lost.  Memories - real or imagined would be lost. 

Who are we if that dies?  You can't embalm a memory or an experience.  It either gets shared or it vaporizes into the tree that fell that no one heard.  I am listening.  I'm not the Lorax, just a daughter in law who misses her own grandma and has a bit of a do over.  I can hear now because my head is sort of out of my ass - and I actually care.  It's the hardest thing I have ever done.  Birth, death, divorce, P90X, - frankly she's hard.  But here - in my life.  Today.  It's for her and my people that I live.  She was bugged when I said I don't live for things (travel light you never know when you gotta) but for people.  I could get on a plane with one suitcase and live for the rest of my life.  It's stuff.  People are eternal.  So few people get that.  And even fewer that I love.  Move with the eternal and let go of the physical.  Okay that sounded so creepy.  Just live I guess is what I'd say. today.  because tomorrow, well you know.  It's cloudy with a chance of?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Growing old

Let me start by saying I have never given too much thought to my own aging process.  (Though at 40 I really don't consider that "aging" per say just ripening to my true self from being just a baby) but caring for my MIL (93) has really given me cause to think about what aging really means.  Of course everyone ages differently and who you were when you were younger usually translates into what you are like when you get older I personally think the effect increases.  Similar to reducing a sauce  - as it cooks down the flavor intensifies.

But for me watching this woman barely able to move unassisted, deaf as a post even with hearing aids, can't breathe without wheezing and coughing, and shaking like all get out - yet still very very much alive in spirit - it really gives me pause.  I would not begrudge her one second of life - it's precious and it's hers to live, but I know for a fact that I do not want to HAVE to be helped off the toilet because I can't move.  That is arrogant of me I know, but it's true.  Everyone talks about aging gracefully but the reality today is not that.  We have so many medicines/procedures out there that extend people's lives but I can't say for myself if that is the road I would choose.  I guess it goes back to what you consider a valuable life.  If I was hooked to a machine to breathe and unable to move I would not be living.  "Medicine" may disagree but I can say absolutely I would want to be somewhere else and really would expect it of my family.

Caring for someone in their later years has really put strains on lots of families - if you can't care for your parent you have to "put" them somewhere and have someone else do it.  Someone HAS to do it.  Either paid or unpaid.

Having worked briefly for an organization that cares for the disabled - both mentally and the elderly,  I can say it's not simple no matter what side of the door you are on.  If you take care of your family member yourself it can be a full time job in itself - the stressors that go with that (depending on the one cared for) can be insurmountable and if you DON'T there are financial strains and most likely some level of guilt.