Thoughts on aging…

I have written about this before,
but it has become somewhat of a preoccupation for us.

And maybe as I get older and start to feel the gap closing 
between my own age (mid-fifty) 
and our more senior loved ones
I start to think about it from the perspective…
if this was me, what choices would I have made?

I wrote in a post that seems so long ago now,
about these two women in our lives,
step-mother-in-law and mother-in-law
that are living with dementia.

Living with dementia….what does that mean.
Well, one of them seems to be living with it better
than the other
but it is what it is.

A return to child-like behaviours in one case
and trapped in a body and mind in the other.

What strikes me most is the recognition that we sometimes 
don’t have the opportunity to make any choice at all.
Although in looking back, the signs were there.
Repeated stories… 
on loop we would say….

Greta, (us smiling) you already told us that story today.

But we never really minded and we all recognized that these were stories of her life.
We just didn’t realize that perhaps
what she was feeling 
was a tenuous hold on that life, those memories, her story.

Maybe she was not telling those stories for us at all.

The scrabble board has been pushed to the side now.
Last year, her pattern was constant.

Sit in the kitchen nook.
Arrange letters on the board, 
some recognizable words popped up, 
but gradually they became a random string of letters.

We would clear the board when she left the room
because a completed board
caused her worry as she had nothing left to do there.
An empty board meant she had to get busy and fill it in.

Now though, not so much.

Car rides are at the top of the list right now.
She will sit in the front living room looking out the large windows 
in anticipation of someone coming into the driveway.

At least that is what I believe.
She loves to get in the car
and then silence.

She may count signs that she sees
or conjur up a comment that seems to float in from somewhere.
We respond favorably and attempt to move that into a full discussion
but the fragment of an idea
was just that….. a fragment.

My father-in-law uses the analogy that dementia

is like fog rolling out and coming back in.
Yes, he lives on the edge of water so that fits perfectly for him
and I grew up there so I can fully understand why he says that.

There are times when everything seems so clear 
and coherent 
and we were all wrong,
she is really not that bad,
we gather for family dinner parties,
she sports her favourite red hat, 
she laughs and smiles
and admires the sparkly chandelier 
that she appears to be seeing for the first time.

but then….

the fog rolls in again, 
clarity disappears and a certain dullness takes over.
And it feels grim.
Really grim.

And then I am back to wondering what I will do in planning my own future.
What lies ahead for me and my own children?
And I wonder why we don’t talk about it with our children
and provide them with the answers now 
so they don’t search for them later.

It seems that dementia makes people uncomfortable.

I took her to a small bakery for lunch one day,
fingers crossed that she would welcome this change
and at first it seemed okay 
but it quickly 
was not.
Nothing was quite right,
she took no pleasure in the smells…. I know that is a documented element of dementia
but what struck me most were the stares.
The sort of 
how can we enjoy our meal-now-stares
Yes, she was restless
Yes, she was somewhat dramatic in how she ate her sandwich 
avoiding the crusts.

But this was her community
And once upon a time they were proud that she was who she was
A strong advocate for environmental change
A member of the hall of fame
A member of the Canadian ski team
A mother to 7 children
and yet…

Well, that doesn’t seem to count anymore.
And perhaps that is just part of the whole aging “thing”.
Maybe I am supposed to just accept that.

It is after all a new world right?
Social media… 
young people 
and
people my own age
are suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) 
and really that seems to be debilitating…. doesn’t it? Isn’t it?

I see that right before my own eyes,
friends with phones dinging with banal messages of 
hello,
where are you,
what ya doin?….

I am not the first to write about this
nor will I be the last…
I hope.

But, I think we need to discuss this,
openly,
honestly
and with care and concern for those people out there taking care of
someone with dementia.

Just the other day,
I noticed a thought that I was struggling to hold on to, 
a memory
that lingered on the periphery of my thinking
as if taunting me,
demonstrating to me
what it would be like if I was unable to concentrate long enough
to bring it into focus.

I did,
but that small bleep in time
felt very telling.
It led me here,
to this page.

Not sure what any of that means
but I do know this,
moving forward I walk with passion 
and with an understanding 
that this is it, 
right now and right here….

As it has always been…the future is one big unknown.