I See Old People

September 16, 2008

I couldn’t for the life of me understand how my brother could do it.  Sure, I was just a pesky little sister, ten years his junior, and lacking some understanding about the world, family, and interactions.  They never seemed to bother him. Their limited, and oftentimes awkward motions.  The heavy breathing.  The scent of memories wrapped in mothballs.  As a child, old people made me nervous.  They just did.  So, limited contact was just what the doctor in my little mind ordered.

We watched Mama take care of Grandma at the house for years. Though, Grandma would correct me to say she was an independent dweller *smile*.  She was…had her own room, bathroom, shelves in the fridge.  She eventually moved into a senior highrise by the time I entered 5th grade.  I didn’t get it.  How did brother do all those sleepovers at Grandma’s crib, just him and her.  I often wondered what they talked about.  How in the world could a one-on-one with Grandma be fun, exciting?

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized allll the golden nuggets Grandma had in her possession, just waiting to pass them on.  Worth a million times more than the peppermints she kept in her glass dish by the door.  I made Grandma a special character in the book.  A flash role with a subtle impact you won’t see unless you’re open to it…I can see it and feel it so deeply…

Fast-forward to last year, and the front lines of caregiving for a dying parent.  I saw some of the most ugly facets of growing old, sickness.  Seems like when Daddy progressed to infancy…having to be fed, bathed, diaper changes, administer meds….when it was all over, I regressed back to seasons of childhood.  And right now, I’m having some difficulties being around the elderly.

Case in point.  Attended a volunteer planning meeting for one of Daughter’s clubs at school (I promised myself I was gonna be more active & visible this year…it’s going).  When we got to the fundraisers planned for the year…. “and so, we’ll visit the seniors in the nursing home…maybe adopt a grandparent…and in December take them gifts…”  Jotting notes during the meeting, I could not set my pen to paper on this one.  I just kept nodding my head, but my insides were twisted like “I’m not going in there”.

Last weekend, me and Mama set a date to go to the movies.  I initiated the outing, wanting to show her effort and desire to re-build our bond.  The morning of our movie trip, I call, and she tells me one of her friends wants to go with us.  Now, don’t ask me why, but movies with Mama feels like movies with Mama.  Movies with Mama and her friend initially felt like hanging out with two old ladies.  I tried to wiggle out of it, “If you guys wanna go, we can do a raincheck.”  “Noooo, I want to hangout with you….you can still be your crazy self, she’s good people.”  Guess what, I had a good time with those two ladies….

This week….hubby keeps mentioning me and the kids meeting his client, Mr. Levine.  Strong and coherent for 101, he IS 101!  Mr. Levine hasn’t been feeling too well lately.  Hubby loves what he does, but it can be emotionally draining at times.  Bottomline, the thought of meeting Mr. Levine makes my chest hurt, and the tears flow.  It reminds me, man….it just reminds me.  I don’t want to say hello to anyone I’ll have to say good-bye to in a heartbeat.

I’ve said all this to say…I’m in this approach-avoidance conflict with seniors right now.  I don’t like it, it’s all assumptions and in my head, but it’s real.  It’s what I’m feeling, and I keep trying to protect myself, distance myself from the threat of pain.  Saying good-bye to Daddy ripped something outta me…maybe it’ll grow back, maybe it’ll just re-appear, or maybe I’ll never see it again.  Maybe I don’t even need it anymore.  I don’t even know how to define this ‘it’.  I just know it’s gone bye-bye.  And the place where ‘it’ resided…yeah, it’s still there, just void now.  Funny how I can still tell where void lives….when it’s…void.

I didn’t expect this side..this angle of grief.  Boy do I miss my Dad.  Maybe this is all just prep…so one day, if I’m blessed to become a senior, I’ll be able to comfort some young thirty-something woman, and let her know it’s ok to feel what she’s feeling….{rearranging my dentures} “Chile, when I was yo age, I felt the same way ’bout old people some days….”  (-: Ashe.Selah


7 Responses to “I See Old People”

  1. Kafo Says:

    my granddad is 2 years younger than his wife, my grandmother who is 75 and he constnatly rubs it in her face

    3 years ago i didn’t even have their number
    now i call them regularly
    i guess you could say the older i got the more i realized i had in common with them

    so does your hubby do the night shift all thru the week
    i can only imagine the difference
    take it easy o

  2. ashe.selah Says:

    That’s a blessing to be able to do so, Kafo. Treasure that. There is so much our older generation can offer (love, wisdom, advice)..and so much for us to give back…that’s where my “approach” lies. I just have to let time balance my feelings and emotions when it comes to the memories (avoidance).

    Yep, hubby’s rockin’ the night shift during the week…family and ‘us’ time on the weekends…can you say really different :)!

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Grieving takes a long time (another one of those processes! How many of those do we have to go through! 😉 ) It must have been so hard to see your Dad in pain and watch him lose his independence, too. And now he’s gone. I’m sorry, Ashe.Selah. It really hasn’t been that long.

    One of the things that scares me about getting older is the idea that I might lose control over my body, fall apart physically, or lose control over my mind! Maybe that’s part of your senior avoidance, too. Or maybe not. It’s just what came to my mind when I was thinking about my own reaction.

  4. ashe.selah Says:

    You know, Jennifer, without even looking, I’ve been running across people who years later are still impacted by the loss of a loved one. Kinda scared me. I’m a novice at this dying thing, thinking “does it really take this long?” Maybe it’s remnants of denial that it happened, my old Superwoman from the past telling me to suck it up already, or what. Yeah, it hasn’t been that long….8 mos. a week from today, but who’s counting :-|.

    I witnessed tremendous pain & suffering…saw the human flesh do horrible things…and I couldn’t make any of it stop, though he looked me in eyes and said, “I don’t want to die.” All this from a debonair man who refused to lay flat in the bed, for fear of messing up his hair :). I don’t want that to happen to me when I get old, and I don’t want my kids to experience what me and my siblings did. I have to keep telling myself…Dad’s story doesn’t have to be mine.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    I’ve seen this, too, watched a very independent man (my mother’s longtime boyfriend) get down to 80 pounds, watched him relearn how to walk, a skeletal form determinedly making his way around the critical care unit, only to be felled by another infection. He didn’t want to die, either, even after eight years of illness. He wasn’t even that old. It’s a horrible thing for everyone to experience — really, it’s put me off of hospitals and doctors, which may not be a good thing. I’m still processing his illness and he died 6 1/2 years ago! My husband went through similar things with his mother, though she made it to her early 70s.

    You’re right — it doesn’t have to be like that, but I find that I don’t feel like we’ll have a whole lot of control over it in the end. Just have to keep on keeping on, treat our bodies and our souls with respect, and hope for the best.

    Take care! I’m sorry if this is too depressing.

  6. ashe.selah Says:

    Don’t be sorry, Jennifer…it’s quite ok…now lol. Funny, catch me 4-5 years ago, and I might have thought “gosh, suck it up already”….yeah, I was a piece of work, behind so many walls. But, with pain and experience comes humility and healing. People need people they can share their depressing stuff with…I hear you…I get that now, and honored you feel comfortable in sharing :).

    I’m with you…on the outs with hospitals and doctors, so you can imagine why my physical healing trips me out at times. You’re right…we have control in the meantime to treat and feed our bodies and souls with goodness. That’s where I try to focus my energy *smile*.

  7. […] I’ve already spoken here about taking a break from the elderly…still working on that.  But I thought I’d take a chance, after that enlightening […]

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