I knew it was inevitable; but I’ve been in denial for years. My mom and dad have always been strong, motivated to maintain muscle tone and mental acuity, focused on wellness, and fighting aging on every level. They’ve stayed active. They both work out at the YMCA, practice chair yoga, and remain involved with their community service activities, church groups and friends. When their friends die, they cultivate younger friends.
But three weeks ago my mother began experiencing debilitating pain in her hips, groin and legs. Her limbs became numb and she lost the ability to ambulate. She may be 85, but she is not my grandmother’s 85, 75, 65 or 55. In her world 85 is the new 65. She resisted seeking medical attention. That is what the children of the Depression do. They suck it up; endure; press on; deny the pain; keep fighting for independence; and refuse to call an ambulance. They see a physician as a last resort and refuse to give in until the pain is too bad. My parents also refuse to ask their children to come visit during a health crisis It isn’t necessary; we aren’t on death’s door; we will be fine; as the Black Knight on the bridge in Monty Python & The Holy Grail would say Tis but a scratch! Tis but a flesh wound!
But it is a big deal to me. It is important to my siblings. We know we are blessed and extremely fortunate that we have both of our parents among us at this stage in our lives when we are all of a certain age. Yet we are not ready to let them go “gentle into that good night”. It is also disheartening that no matter how we fight the indignities of our aging selves we cannot avoid the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of getting older. Our bodies will betray us.
Seeing my parents fight the onslaughts of aging reminds me of my good fortune and my mortality. I don’t like being reminded of my mortality at the age of 56 any more than I did at 17. The difference is that now I appreciate and have gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned on the winding road I’ve traveled. And I thank my parents for giving me the gift of their lives as role models, the tools to live a life of independence, and the heart to love them and learn from them.
I want them to keep fighting the good fight!