January 15, 2005

Old redefined

Today is my dad's 80th birthday. Quite a milestone and it has come at quite a price. In his 70's we watched him go through a lot of physical problems and lots of procedures and surgeries to get to 80! A stent and angioplasty in his early 70's, followed by a pacemaker.... steadily we watched his weakening heart slowing him down to a shuffle. Then prostate cancer and recurring scar tissue from the prostate surgery which made his kidneys shut down for a few days this year. His mind is slowing down as is his body and we have to remind him of things he knew well a year ago. The doctors put him through a year's worth of testing and evaluation to determine if he is getting Alzheimer's disease, as his 2 sisters do. The results were negative, which is a great relief.

Everyone knows that your body and mind slow down in old age and that you start needing more medical attention. I knew this was coming as my parents entered their 60's and 70's, but it seemed to happen quickly, like a smack in the face when it happened to my family. It is personal this time.....it hit home....it invaded our lives without permission and it hurts us. Shame on me for not being more sympathetic and supportive when friends would talk about their aging parents and how bewildering it is. It is a hard thing to watch your dad lose his ability to go hiking and walking, to watch him spend more and more time in his chair, walking to the kitchen for a cup of coffee becoming a chore. My dad once was an extremely intelligent scientist and engineer. His job was to be given a problem and to figure out how to solve it and build a machine to make it happen. Amazing....I use to try to listen to him explain scientific or mathematical things and get dizzy!! I just could not think on that level. Now he tells me things several times in one day and needs help thinking of a word to finish his sentences sometimes. Hard....hurts....bewildering.....makes you have to grow up in the most basic of ways...with your parents!

I watched a rerun of 7th Heaven this morning...funny how it happened to be this episode today...on my dad's birthday. The pastor's wife Annie's dad had passed away. She had been very depressed and anxious during his illness and fight with some chronic disease, I can't remember what it was even, but she knew he was fading. So he actually dies and she gets this euphoric feeling, this relief and peace. So the whole episode is about how everyone is feeling euphoric when they should be grieving and sad....they all attribute this to Annie's influence and how she's so unusually and alarmingly happy. Well it's kind of funny and quirky and you wonder what the conclusion is going to be here. So finally one night she and her husband, lying on their bed, discuss her euphoric feelings. She explains that she is happy because she realizes all the extraordinary gifts she's been given in life.....her wonderful parents who raised her so well, for her children and how they have turned out so well and are happily pursuing their own ways in life, and for her assurance that her father is now in Heaven and at peace. She is full of joy and happiness over the gratitude she has from all the good things in her life. She is grateful and appreciative and is enjoying it with no excuses, even when everyone expects her to be sad.

Point taken, Lord. =) I will go to Phoenix tomorrow for my dad's 80th birthday celebration and be happy and enjoy him and my family and be grateful and appreciative...instead of being tempted to wallow in self pity and sadness at how much he has lost...I will celebrate who he has been and even who he is now, a gentle, loving albeit simpler, slower person. I love my parents and I’m glad I still have them......and I need to enjoy them while they're here with us.

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