As I make this entry on Thought"full"ness, I am sitting at my Mother-in-Law's kitchen bar with her sitting in her recliner eating some Kraft macaroni and cheese; something she would not have done in her younger days; she would have made it from scratch and she was a great cook! She is now almost 91 years old and I use the word "almost" 91 instead of 90 because I think when you reach that age you deserve every second that you have earned!
I am staying with her until Thanksgiving; at least that is the plan for now since plans can change at any moment. I stayed with her last year for 3 weeks when she was recovering from bronchitis, but it was a different experience. She needed someone here to help her while she got some of her strength back, but now I do not think her energy or her stamina will return. Her body is tired and she says she is "done".
My Father-in-Law passed away April 16th, 2012 and my Mother-in-Law has wanted to remain in her home and so far that's been possible. She has someone coming in 5 days a week for a few hours each day to help her get her day started with dressing and eating that also gives her some company for a few hours. After that care-giver leaves my Mother -in-law is left to lay or sit on the couch until someone comes and helps her up; she can no longer get up by herself.
My brother and sister-in-law live only a street away and have done a wonderful job at being her main care-givers (as well as caring for my Father-in-law before he passed away) and my husband and I do what we can to help them out (we live 14 hours away by car); it's a heavy load to carry even when you love someone and are happy to help them out.(I have to add the other 5 brothers do what they can as well since they don't live close either) I am the one nominated to come down since my husband is not retirement age yet. I love being here; it's a larger city than I live in and I am able to see my brother and sister-in-law and their kids plus my youngest son and his wife live only 20 minutes away.
I find myself feeling differently about my time here than I had thought I would. Instead of feeling free to run to the store or have lunch out or do a little shopping I feel a little more constrained to be here more often; especially since my MIL cannot get up off the couch by herself to go to the bathroom, and that thought frightens her. I feel a little more sad this time because in reality, this could be my last visit to her home.
I started this entry last evening and today I am sitting at the bar with the Bose system on the PBS station playing classical music very loudly! (Her hearing is not good even with hearing aids)
Being here is forcing me to contemplate my own mortality and aging. I am only 54, but I know that we will all go through this unless we die earlier from disease or accident. I have told my husband or kids to just shoot me if I ever get to the point where I can no longer take care of myself! (of course, I don't really mean to literally shoot me, but you get the jest!)
What a helpless feeling it must be to lose your independence. I feel helpless if I do not have my own car for transportation! I like my independence! Maybe losing one's independence is a lesson that some of us will have to learn, and a lesson that some of us on the giving end learn as well. It is a humbling feeling to have someone depending on your for their very existence.
As parents, we do that for our children; we are their lifeline to the world, to learning and surviving their first few years as they learn to function and take care of themselves. That; however, feels different than being depended on by an aging parent. Taking care of and helping our children to grow from babies to independent people feels rather exciting and worthwhile. Looking into the eyes of an aging parent (or I imagine the eyes of any helpless individual) while you help them up when they can't do it themselves, help push them into bed when they no longer can just hop up (i'm so grateful for humor in those situations) or know they're depending on you to help them out of the bathroom when they can no longer do that for themselves is extremely humbling and a little sad at the same time.
I know there are a multitude of articles written on this subject and many, many individuals go through this so I am not attempting to be precise in my thoughts on this subject (nor am I an expert). Maybe I am just trying to figure out my feelings and thoughts as I put them out into the universe for anyone who may read this and interpret these words from their own perspective.
But may I just say? Aging is not for the weak or coward?
And before I close, I have one more thought to add. When I come to the point in my life where my Mother-in-law is, I want to feel that my life was not wasted but that it was filled with love and joy. I hope to know that I made a difference and added hope and happiness and possibilities to those I knew and loved. Maybe we should all start acting like we are at the end of our lives? Maybe then we would put the really important things first and let the less important things fade away?