I am in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington for the Thanksgiving weekend. The three of us here are 40, 60, and 80 year old women–me running my five miles each morning, my aunt walking, and my grama lying on the couch recovering from knee replacement. It’s her third joint replacement, with a fourth scheduled (hips and knees done, shoulder coming up). Is this an inevitable part of aging? Is this what I have to look forward to? As you know, I’m doing what I can to stave aging off. We staged an intervention this morning to talk about grama’s unwillingness to use the cane/walker, to consider that driving isn’t such a good idea, and to suggest she stop running for the phone and leaping up off the couch. She’s already fallen once while we’ve been here, and we’re worried. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering with arthritis, memory loss, and many other degenerative conditions. And this holiday weekend has been a reflective time to think about generations, love, loss, aging, family.
My aunt and grama are both a little worried that I’m denying my kids the protein they need (my daughters being vegetarian and all of us eating very little animal food). And they express concern about calcium, since we don’t get dairy products. I told them not to worry because I’ve never drunk milk and have the bone density of a 20-year old. They look at me, a little puzzled, confused, and concerned. From what I see in milk drinkers, both in the literature and in my life (anecdotally), well, let’s just say I’m going to keep going down this path I’m on.
My grama is technically not. (My actual grama, I mean.) She’s my grampa’s fifth wife–my own grandmother died at her own hand at the age of 33. My aunt I traveled here with was five years old at the time and, in all the chaos with police officers and ambulance EMT’s milling about not paying attention to her, she tragically walked into the bedroom to see the scene after my grandmother put a bullet in her head.
“Grama” has been in my life since shortly after I was born, so she’s the only grama I’ve ever known. She’s an amazing lady who is the best caretaker for my grampa I could ever hope for. He completely lost his memory years ago and is now in a rest home. I went to see him tonight, where he was preoccupied with touching my hair, and kept telling me it is pretty and gold. I told him he could touch it all he wanted. I miss the real him, but his sense of humor is still there even if he asks the same question a dozen times. And my grama is as patient and loving the 12th time as the 1st. Her first marriage did not work out–and amazingly, last night, we went to have dinner at the home of the woman who next married her first husband! That is the kind of woman my grama is. She’s forgiving and patient. I want to be like her when I grow up. (All except for her liberal use of the words “sh*t” and “d*mn,” haha.)
Aging is inevitable. But I am here watching what hell it is at the end. And I’m entirely unconvinced that it has to happen as early as it does for most of us.