Getting Old is not for Sissies

I always learn a lot of lessons when making the trip from Japan to the U.S. to see my family.  This time, however, I seem to be learning more than usual about life in general.

My family is big – but beyond big, they’re close and in-your-face perpetually.  I will not lie: being across the globe from everyone is sometimes very difficult, but there are days when the distance is quite a relief.

On Tuesday I spent the day with my grandmother, age 88, taking her to buy presents for my two kids, to her knitting store (my grandmother knits every sweater I own and she’s absolutely incredible with her talent) and out to lunch before bringing her back to my parents’ house to see my kids swim and then have dinner before I brought her home again.

On Wednesday I got a call from my great-aunt who had received our holiday card and thought the photo of our family was terrific.  It was a nice call to get, but she also, at age 88, is going through her share of issues.  She lost a bunch of friends over the past year and she’s alone for the first time in her life, having lost her husband more than 16 years ago and a boyfriend quite recently.

Thursday I spent some of the morning with my grandfather, who is 93 and in an assisted living place.  But before going upstairs to his apartment, my mother and I spent a little time with the executive director of the place, discussing issues of my grandfather’s increasing dementia and agitation.  Always a jokester, my formerly jovial grandfather yelled at me yesterday because my father wasn’t paying enough attention to him while my dad and my son went to play golf.  In a brighter world, Grandpa would have been out on the links with them, but that’s not reality.

Even my parents see more doctors these days than I would prefer.  I recently helped my dad compile a list of his medications to bring to his primary care physician for a check.  What a list!  My dad is healthy, happy, and doing quite well, but it was more of a reality check for me than for him.

My mom and dad are doing a wonderful job caring for their elderly parents and it is not easy.  But sometimes they fail to recognize that it’s hard for me to watch too.  I hate that my grandparents are old.  I want to go back to being seventeen when I could take my car and drive to their houses  for the weekend and be completely pampered and cared for.  I hate that my parents are older, too, and reminders of that pop up in the most unexpected places.

I’m not yet forty and just feeling a little blue about time passing.  I know this is part of life and I can’t change it, nor would I want to.  These days and hours speaking with my various family members toward the close of their lives provide me with valuable tools by which I can see the second half of my life, too.  So that’s what I’m going to do going forward.  I’m going to be patient and I am going to listen.  These people are a gift in my life and I will embrace the gifts they bring as long as I can.

3 thoughts on “Getting Old is not for Sissies

  1. Aimee,
    This is so beautifully written. This is our first Holiday without Terry’s Dad and I agree that getting old is not for sissies. I found living across the Globe made the signs of aging even more obvious when visiting our families stateside.
    On a lighter note, hats off to your 88 year old great-aunt for having a boyfriend!
    As a teenager, I remember sitting at the condo pool in Boca Raton where my eccentric 83 year old Nana lived. A neighbor of hers came up to me and said, “Honey, your Nana makes a mean Margarita!”. The Condo residents used to celebrate Happy Hour at the Pool. Cheers.
    Enjoy your time with your family! xo

  2. What a beautiful post, Aimee. I agree with Nancy – go your great-aunt!

    It is hard watching people age, and amazing to see how each perseveres in their life despite the difficulties of advanced age… and I’m not halfway across the globe. And it’s so important to appreciate every moment we have with our parents and grandparents. Neither Scott nor I have any grandparents still around… and rarely see the few “greats” in our family. 🙂 Treasure every moment!

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