Friday, November 28, 2008

Belated Thanksgiving Post

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving!

Mine was bittersweet. We had a lovely meal at our friend Katharine's house -- she offered a toast to Dad's recovery, which moved me -- and then took leftovers to Dad at the hospital. He's now in the VA's rehab/nursing home/hospice unit, the "Community Living Center," where the staff seems more responsive to immediate needs than at the previous nursing home (people show up when you press the call light, and an LPN was very good about answering my questions about Dad's care), but where the PT schedule is much less rigorous. He'll have PT today, but then not again until Monday.

Dad enjoyed the meal we brought him. He'd gone on a self-described "hunger strike" at lunch, protesting the cruddy food (or, rather, the fact that they have him on a soft-food only diet, which he was okay with a few weeks ago, but loathes now; I take this as a sign that he's feeling better). We had a nice visit, punctuated only by the alarm going off as one of the Alzheimer's patients tried to leave the unit in his wheelchair. The guy in the room next to Dad's told me this happens several times a night; it drives him nuts. It makes me sad. That resident probably doesn't know where he is, but he's very certain that he wants to be somewhere else.

Driving home, I got weepy. There are any number of logical reasons for this. I haven't exercised for a few days, which always ramps up my depression symptoms. I was sad about the Alzheimer's guy. I hated leaving Dad in the nursing home, even though we hope he'll get out soon, and, most simply, I'm just worn out from the past month-plus of stress and travel.

But part of it, accentuated by Thanksgiving, was my perennial terror of being alone when I'm old. When I asked Dad what he was thankful for, he said that he was thankful for his support system, especially me and Gary and Fran. Because Gary and I don't have kids, and because he's older than I am, it's far from clear that I'll have a similar support system when, God willing, I get to Dad's age. The past few weeks have made me acutely aware of how important that is, and being at Katharine's house, with four generations gathered around the table, underscored the point.

And yes, I'll probably have friends when I become elderly, especially if I remain active at church (and I see no reason why that should change!). But I'm not sure that friends can be expected to go the distance family would, although of course not all relatives are ideal in these circumstances either. Even if we'd had kids -- and we had excellent reasons for not doing so -- there's no guarantee that they would have been loving and attentive in our old age. Fran's kids aren't; they've given her nothing but heartache.

My faith tells me that God is always with me, but my experience tells me that a lot of old people, especially old women, wind up alone and warehoused, desperately wanting to be somewhere else but having nowhere else to go. And yesterday made me newly afraid of that, even as I treasured the time I had with family and friends.

On a more positive note, I got a lot of knitting done yesterday, and this morning I taught myself how to knit cables. And this afternoon I'll swim, which will undoubtedly make everything look brighter!

Oh, my brother-in-law responded to the car-vs.-pole mishap by suggesting that I buy a used ambulance. Heh!


  1. You've been through a lot in the last month or so--and the holidays often are a time when reflections aren't all rosy. I do hope you've had a good swim by now. Also tell your BIL that you are buying a used TOW TRUCK. And take some extra hugs and kisses from this end and distribute them round, OK?

  2. I'm glad your father is returning to his normal feisty state -- that has to be a good sign!

    Being childless and single and by far the youngest of my siblings, I know what you mean about old age. That's one reason why, in addition to that fact that I truly love them, I am so good to my adult nephews. A childless friend of mine, whose husband is also much older, and I joke about the connected cottages we'll build for our old age. You can come on out to the Great Flatness and join us -- three old teachers/writers and a multitude of cats!


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