All posts filed under “Aging

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Birthdays and Memories

I have the pleasure of celebrating a friend’s birthday this week. The big five-four (54). Time sure passes by quickly.

I remember when he had long hair that went all the way down to his waist. With his scraggly beard, he reminded me of Jesus (laughing). What I remember the most though is his hands — “kind” hands. He used them in ways that expressed his concern for other people, a touch on the shoulder, a pat on the back …

Time passes so quickly for us. I’m told by “older” friends that the older one gets the quicker the time seems to pass.

No longer can we play in sandboxes and have it considered “normal” — well, as if anyone is really normal.

My iPod has all of my songs on it and when I play them on the “shuffle” setting, sometimes a sad song comes on …

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar 
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder 
And tearful at the falling of a star 

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams 
Words like when you’re older must appease him 
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round 
And the painted ponies go up and down 
We’re captive on the carousel of time 
We can’t return we can only look 
Behind from where we came 
And go round and round and round 
In the circle game 

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now 
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town 
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down 

And the seasons they go round and round 
And the painted ponies go up and down 
We’re captive on the carousel of time 
We can’t return we can only look 
Behind from where we came 
And go round and round and round 
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty 
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round 
And the painted ponies go up and down 
We’re captive on the carousel of time 
We can’t return we can only look 
Behind from where we came 
And go round and round and round 
In the circle game

The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell, from the Ladies of the Canyon CD

With gray hair sprawling through his body, he is still the man I know, the man I married and the man whose twinkle in his eyes light the flame in my heart.

Ahhh — life. There’s no going back in time and when we reminisce of days gone by we see them filled with joy and pain. Round and round life takes us on its journey. Each day, each minute, each moment never to be re-lived.

But for now, the moment is mine. This moment I will love and allow the love of others to encompass me. When I die, I can say that I have lived and loved.

 

 

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Eighty-Six

Eighty-six. I can’t remember how old I was when I could finally count that high.

When I was in my 20’s, I remember thinking “I’m not going to live past 50.” I wonder if this is a common thought when you’re young? Fifty (50) seemed so old and now it’s a number I look “back” to.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live the life of an 86 year old so that when we reached that age we would know what it was really like? Would it make any difference in how we live today?

My mother recently turned 86 and I think she’s doing great. Ask her how she’s doing though and her response lately seems to be “I’ll be leaving soon.” When we ask where she’s going (she’s not senile) she just looks at us and points her finger up to the sky. Death is on her mind a lot.

She uses oxygen at night to help her breathe and during the day she paces herself so she doesn’t get out of breath. Although she smoked until she was in her early 50’s, her advice is “don’t ever start” but it was never a habit that I wanted to embrace so there were no problems there. She struggles with some emphysema although it hasn’t much impeded what she does or where she goes.

With her family by her side, my mother cooked her own birthday dinner and enjoyed watching us eat, talk and simply hang out. Her eyes gleam when we go back for seconds of the food that she lovingly prepares — even though her sense of smell is no longer there.

My mother is a senior companion which means she gets paid for visiting other seniors in her building — seniors who are lonely and need someone to talk with them to help them get through the day. But my mother has her own help who comes in to clean and cook as sometimes she is not able to do things on her own because of the emphysema. She has always done what she can do though.

Her advice to me a long time ago was: Keep your body moving or it will stiffen up on you.

My siblings and I are able to joke with her about death “I’ll take this piece when you’re gone — shall we write it up on a piece of paper for you to sign?” All jokes aside though, this is one death that will sting forever.

Growing up I never appreciated the sacrifice my mother made for me but instead my focus was on all the rules I had to follow, never realizing those rules kept me alive while growing up in the inner city of Chicago.

Eighty-six. I hope I’m like my Mama when I get to be eighty-six.

 

 

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Dying Gracefully

I’ve had to fly back to Seattle as a friend of mine (who I have power of attorney for) had to be put on hospice right before I went on my Caribbean vacation.

Once I landed in Seattle, I went straight to the adult family home from the airport. My friend’s name is Lois. She was in bed when I arrived and a social worker from hospice was sitting next to her. (Hospice is called in when a person has less than 6 months to live.)

Lois looked at me but I’m not sure she remembered me — at least not right away. After a few moments she appeared to recognize me but there was no spark in her any more. She was on an oxygen tank as her oxygen level has been going below 90%. They are slowly trying to wean her off of all the medications she is on although they have added two — morphine and an anti-psychotic drug — as she gets really agitated in the evenings. Both of these medications are administered at very low dosages however the anti-psychotic drug is the one that also makes her seem less “real.” She stares off into space a lot and repeats things quite frequently when she does talk.

When we lived in Seattle my husband would get a grocery list from Lois every Sunday and deliver the groceries to her. It was no surprise to me that she kept repeating his name to me over and over again. She kept asking if he was making chicken for dinner as the home she lived in was having chicken for dinner that day. I told her “yes” even though I didn’t know what he was making.

Lois remembered my sons names too — both of which she hoped would marry some day soon.

We spent two hours together before it was dinner time. It took two people to move her from her bed to the wheelchair. She had a blank stare during the whole process. Once they wheeled her to the dinner table, they put a bib on her and placed the food in front of her. Pureed chicken with green beans. Yuck! She looked at the food and just stared at it. I couldn’t tell if she was disgusted with what she saw but I know I was. The staff gave her a couple of bites and then she refused to eat more. They added a powder to her water called Thick It to make the consistency like a gel so she doesn’t choke on the water as she has trouble swallowing now.

Thick It

It was sad to see her sitting in front of two other people who were eating chicken and mashed potatoes only to have hers be nothing that resembled theirs. Baby food, I thought. Baby food might taste better to her than this — not that I had tasted what they had pureed but the appearance was ugly. How can you prepare pureed chicken to look pretty though? I made a mental note to ask the nurse later this week if she could eat baby food instead.

She sat at the dinner table for over a half hour. The staff were cheerful and patient. They allowed her to try to feed herself which was painful to watch. She would occasionally pick up the glass of gel-like water and sip it. The staff would come back to check on her and give her more mouthfuls of the pureed chicken.

How sad that one’s life has to come to the end like this. If she continues eating so little, the doctor estimates she will die in less than 6 months which is why hospice was brought in.

Is this dying gracefully? A friend told me that there are three ways to die:

  • Old age
  • A disease (like cancer)
  • Quickly (as in a heart attack that one does not recover from)
Lois is dying of old age that is advanced by her dementia. She lacks the ability or strength to want to eat or do anything for herself at this stage of her life.
All I can do is visit her for these next few days and let her know that I care about her. Every time I leave her, I give her a kiss on the forehead. She in turn gives me two kisses on the cheek. Yes, she still remembers me but one day she won’t. I will still love the sweet person that she has always been.

 

 

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Hospice

She’s 81 years and 5 months old. Her dementia is getting worse. She’s starting to fall out of bed and can’t remember things from one moment to the next.

So far, my friend remembers me when I talk to her on the phone. My next visit to her will be in late January/early February as she lives in Seattle.

This week I received a call from Hospice wanting my permission to evaluate her as her doctor believes that if she continues in a downward spiral she will not live more than 6 months. I gave them my permission.

This friend has given me power of attorney for financial and medical decisions in her life. For over 12 years our family has helped her. She’s not a rich woman — at least not materialistically although she would always show her thankfulness in handmade quilts, embroidered pillowcases and lots of hugs.

She has placed total trust in us. That’s a lot of responsibility and one I don’t take lightly.

A friend once told me “I can count my real friends on one hand.” Real friends are truly hard to come by. I just hope that I can live up to the trust that she has given me. I don’t want to make any wrong decisions for her. She deserves, when it’s time, to die with dignity.

The aging process is not easy … I sure hope someone is around to take care of me.

 

 

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Minnesota Sunrise

Beautiful sunrises greet me as I drive my husband to work.

Minnesota Sunrise

Another day alive. I continue to learn to make the best of my moments. Life is not a guarantee.

Back at the house, the smell in the air reminds me of the times I spent at camp when I was growing up. The almost naked trees allow the sun to filter through the branches.

When the leaves turn colors in autumn, I am always drawn to their beauty.  As the season continues, the leaves turn brown, shrivel up and die. I rake them up and shovel them back onto the property.

Life resembles the season of the leaves. In the autumn of our lives, we become more beautiful as we look back and realize how much wisdom we truly have. We allow ourselves to be who we are and not who others want us to be. But then our bodies, like the leaves, start to wither. And slowly, ever so slowly, we fall to the ground and die.

Our words and actions are composted back through those who love us.

We need to stop and see the beauty in the people around us while they/we are alive.

 

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Afton State Park

Autumn is the perfect time to take walks through some of Minnesota’s State Parks as wildlife can easily be seen but the bug population has decreased.

Afton State Park is located in Afton, Minnesota, a small rural city south of St. Paul with a population of approximately 2800. The park borders the St. Croix River and one of the trails leads you down to the water.

Afton State Park Visitor Center

The visitor center was bustling with people when we arrived. We did not have to check in though as we have a pass that covers State Parks and another that covers the Preserves.

One of the first signs we encountered warned of wild parsnip growing in the area. I hadn’t realized that parsnip could be a problem. This is commonly planted parsnip. The sign says the parsnip “escaped” its domestic use and has become naturalized in open areas and fields.

When our sweaty skins come into contact with this plant, a chemical called psoralen is tranfered to the skin and can cause some people to become super-sensitive to sun exposure. Who would have thought parsnip could have this effect? Fortunately for us, we did not run into any.

The trail we decided to take went down to the St. Croix River.

Trail to St. Croix River

Picnic tables and beautiful sun-drenched trees lined the trail.

The view from above, of the St. Croix River and the valley surrounding it was very pretty.

St. Croix River

Minnesota Valley in Afton

The trail we took headed downwards. I’m always hoping the walk back is not too steep.

Trail to St. Croix River

Creek at Afton State Park

Bridge over creek

And here it is — the St. Croix River. Sailing, fishing, swimming … extra fun in the summer time. The swimming area is closed now.

Sailboat in the St. Croix River

Fishing in the St. Croix River

A fisherman takes advantage of the sunny day to catch fish. The St.Croix River has large and smallmouth bass and walleye fish. The bass must be 14 inches or more in order to be kept and any walleye less than 15 inches must be released.

I have not had the opportunity to fish this year. Maybe I’ll try ice fishing when the snow freezes our nearest lake.

Afton State Park Beach

Although swimming was not allowed this time of year, it was nice to walk on a sandy beach on a sunny day.

Looking over to the Wisconsin side of the river, a house is almost hidden in the hillside.

House on the hillside

The walk back to the parking lot took us past a hillside of ferns, a babbling brook and the ski lift area. Yes — there is skiing in Minnesota. Since I’m not a skier, I’ll probably never be able to tell if the “hills” are tall enough to be challenging or if they can be considered “bunny” slopes.

Babbling brook

Hillside of ferns

Afton Ski Area

Minnesota is lovely in autumn. The blue sky, the changing of the leaves on the trees, the smell in the cool air — all these help to give a sense of inner peace.

Leaves changing colors

The leaves change colors just like in the seasons of life.

Minnesota's State Parks

 

 

 

 

 

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Google and Memory

A recent article in the Business Insider discusses the possibility that Google is destroying our memory.

“This evolution of how we learn and retain details might allow us to be more efficient in our consumption of information, but what happens to society when we become overly reliant on Google to do the job our brains have always done?”

Retention has always been a problem for me although as I get older I seem to have a clearer understanding of things in life.

The task of searching for information helped our memories retain that information. No more — we know we can “Google” it.

Well, at least the majority of people I know seem to head that way.

It’s always interesting when I visit some of my “older” friends — some just 5 years older — who don’t care to have computers at home and don’t care about all the additional information they could possibly know about.

They are content where they are. The newer generation does not know anything different as cell phones, iPads, Kindles, printers and every new technological advancement is globbed onto.

Are we in a better place now than we were 20 years ago? Depends who you ask. Our social skills have gone downhill, in my opinion. We choose to text instead of talk, email instead of visit. Intimacy with others is at a distance — really it’s no intimacy at all.

Rare are the days when we talk on the phone for hours at a time laughing with someone. Oh — LOL (laughing out loud) is texted to people but it doesn’t have the same depth of value.

Let’s be careful out there not to lose our relationship building skills for lack of using them.

The Business Insider

 

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Back in Minnesota

My trip to Seattle proved to be quite relaxing. Six nights and 7 days — almost like taking a cruise.

Visiting with friends always makes my heart glad.

The plane’s descent over Minnesota on the return trip was beautiful. The autumn colors could clearly be seen and the many  lakes were visible to the eye. A perfect welcome home.

I was thankful when I arrived at the house. I missed the new house – a sign that I am finally settling into this new state called Minnesota.

So many autumn changes in the week that I was gone. The colors on the trees are absolutely gorgeous as the sun filters through the leaves.

I enjoy raking leaves. We’ll see how I feel after this autumn when I have the opportunity to rake many many leaves.

Autumn Colors

Autumn Leaves

Autumn reminds me that there can be beauty in death — another aging revelation. Beauty can be found in just about everything.

 

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Insurance

I’m just wondering … do people get life insurance just for the sake of getting life insurance? If a person’s mortgage is paid, they are healthy, they have no children at home … would they get insurance so that someone else can have “fun” when they die?

Do people who are in their 60’s or later really do this?

Just wondering …

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Depression in the Bible

Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!

Isn’t that the truth? When you consider life and what we toil for? It all seems in vain. Are all of our actions meaningless? We work for money to buy things — clothes, food, houses, cars, boats, stocks and bonds … for what? Eventually we die and whatever is left behind goes to someone else — the government, a family member, a friend or to animals.

We work — someone else inherits. And on and on it goes. The Bible not only speaks of the meaningless of life but also of people who struggled with depression. A son of King David had everything — houses, land, children, women, food … and yet his mind was finding everything in life futile.

I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.

Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.  Ecclesiastes 2:12-19

Ouch! This guy must be really down. Or, perhaps he was aging and was starting to figure our what matters in life. A reading of the whole book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that the people in the Bible were just like us — all struggling in their existence.

The author eventually makes the point that we mustn’t keep our eyes on the things of this earth. Everything here appears meaningless. Our focus must be on the things beyond this earth. A better land — one with no selfishness, no complaining, no suffering, no aches and pains, no DEATH (I like that one).

Otherwise — all we have is non-existence.

NIV Thinline Bible

 

 

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