Crow’s Feet
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Crow’s Feet

2022 Year-End Retrospective — Adjusting to Aging is Bittersweet

Happy and sad intermingle

In 2022, I had two major milestones on one day: Dad died on my 80th birthday. Everything else in my life in 2022 pales in significance.

My father’s decline began in late January when he survived a light case of Covid-19. Our relief was short-lived.

In late March, one of Dad’s caregivers noted what appeared to be an infection in Dad’s left index finger. Covid had left a blood clot in the tip of his finger, and it had become infected. Dad had to be hospitalized to treat it.

One thing led to another. The fingertip fell off, and surgery was required to sew up the hole. The hospitalists gave Dad many drugs and sent him home with more. These led to disturbing hallucinations and his emotional decline.

Dad went into hospice care, and they arranged for him to go into a nursing home. At first, he improved, but later, he had a series of falls that led to his death at 103.

During the months from Dad’s April birthday until his funeral in October, I made three trips to West Virginia. In April, we were grappling with his hallucinations; in August, we were expecting his imminent death, and I was devastated by the situation.

Dad’s was the fifth death that I was close to, and I found his ordeal more painful to witness than those of my first husband, my best friend, my mother, and my brother-in-law.

Dad and I shared a few lucid moments during that August week, but he managed to hold on for four more agonizing weeks before the end.

In October, I went back for the funeral. That was a gentle time, visiting with friends and relatives and hearing their warm remembrances of Dad. At his funeral, the military salute in recognition of Dad’s service in World War II was unexpectedly moving.

In parallel with Dad’s decline, I pondered my challenges of aging.

My eightieth birthday was fast approaching, and I could not decide how to mark the occasion. I had never paid much attention to my birthdays, but this one was worth noting.

At first, I considered having a blowout dinner at a fine restaurant; then, I went to the opposite plan of ignoring the day. Ultimately, I realized that I wanted to celebrate my closest friends.

I had relocated to the California central coast in 1997 without knowing a soul. After 25 years, I had met my goal of making friends here. I wanted them to know how much I appreciated them.

We planned a catered lunch on our patio, and it was bittersweet because I learned of Dad’s death moments before my party began. Nonetheless, I savored being with my dearest friends and reminiscing about good times.

Only half of my dozen closest women friends whom I invited could come. The absentees were either traveling or protecting themselves or their vulnerable husbands from the threat of Covid at our small gathering. This is our life today.

Life is bittersweet. At the risk of indulging in making a listicle, here are other conflicting emotions I had in 2022:

Regarding my physical and emotional well-being, I am grateful for my good health despite my recurring leg pain and occasional blue moods.

Regarding my relationships, I am happy for my successes and hard on myself for my shortcomings.

Regarding my other conflicts, the list is long: To exercise or read? To write or not? To advocate or not? To strive or relax? How to find time for birding, gardening, and photography? What are my goals at this point in my life? How do I prioritize my time?

Realistically, these same challenges will lead to another bittersweet year in 2023.

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“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” (Frank Lloyd Wright) Non-fiction pieces, personal essays and occasional poems that explore how we feel about how we age and offer tips for getting the most out of life.

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Dunelair

: Friend, reader, and photographer with eclectic interests. Loves living on California's central coast. Born and raised in West Virginia.