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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

As We Grow Old

 AS WE GROW OLD   (A tribute to my parents)

© 2012 Carol Ann Castagna  
               Prose and Poetry

"Darling, I am growing older - Silver threads among the gold - Shine upon my brow, today.  Life is fading fast away.  But, my darling you will be, Will be - Always young and fair to me.  Yes my darling you will be - Always young and fair to me…”.  (Lyrics by Eben E. Rexford- Music by H.P. Danks, 1873) ….Lyrics and dreams of years gone by - suddenly, we are growing old.

Suddenly, without warning, without planning, our loved ones are the elderly in our care.  Anxieties rise.  Questions crowd our minds:   “Can I give mom the best care and still maintain a career that I've worked long and hard hours to establish?”  A single parent leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. asks:   “Can I leave dad at home, alone, with the visiting nurse coming to assess his needs and staying only one hour out of the 12 when I am away?”  “Is mom safe?  Is she turning on the stove?  Falling down the stairs?  Walking in the road?  Is it Alzheimer's?”

“Is it possible for me to place him/her in a skilled nursing facility?”  The guilt!  The transition!  The child inside of us - wanting them not to age, at all... wanting them not to die!

In my own experience, I am lost in the shuffle, the shift, and all the changes for  which I am grossly unprepared, emotionally.   I am tormented by the urgency to place my mom in a nursing home.  Italian, adult children just do not do that…and furthermore, I do not want to place her. I want to take care of her, myself:  she is my mother. 

Dad was dying of cancer…Ten short years after that, mom died of complications of Lewy-body Dementia.  I was an only child.  I lived with them, cared for them, brought them into my home, arranged for caretakers and other nursing care, sat with them, cooked for them, bandaged their visible and invisible wounds, protected them…I did the best I could…in my mind, though,  I still feel that I did not do enough.

Mom, however, was also in danger of harming herself while I was off to work.  Even when I had nurse’s aides scheduled to be with her, they only stayed for four hours at a time.  It was close to impossible to cover her with home care 24/7, in the event that I could not be there with her.  There was no other choice.  Almost ten years before that, Dad remained in Hospice for one month:  my mom held on to him till he breathed his last breath.  I remember their faces on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. With hopes still alive and high, with minds and bodies still intact, they received my gift, a love poem…

"Can this really be, George?  Does it seem like yesterday?
That we first smiled at love - Began our journey on life's way?
When hand in hand we strolled down Lover's Lane, just you and me
And vowed that through the years our love as true as gold would be?"
"Well, Rosie, Doll, I think you're right - No time it seems has passed
We've toiled and loved and dreamed and schemed
So fervent at our task.-
That suddenly we find that fifty years have rolled on by
Together we have known a love that nothing could defy.
We've shared the sunshine and the rain that this life brings to all
I've concluded firmly, ‘Only sunshine I recall.’
The sunshine of the rainbow-colored ribbons of our years
Embroidered joys so radiant, I can't recall the tears.
“I love you more today, my Rose than words can ‘ere bestow
Because the love light in your eyes belongs to me alone"
"I love you more today, dear George than yesterday, ‘t'is true
A friend, kind and warm, to walk life's path I've found in you.
Now, life is laced with memories of our years together, dear
And hopes of bright tomorrows with your love, ever near…”
Life can truly seem to pass quickly when age and change leave the sunlight and love-light behind, in memory’s mist.  How is it that age and change can ‘saunter’ by at such a swift pace?  And we, as families are left to learn how to cope lovingly with all that surrounds our pain. Can we do this with dignity and integrity, with grace and style?  Can we look at age during our youth?   Can we look ahead and plan and accept inevitable change in our parents and in ourselves?  Most of all, can we learn how to smile our way through?

I never bargained for Old Age.  Wrinkles –
Droopy jowls
Blurred vision and the like
But here it is
Falling boldly upon my face
Stamping its name, coldly - then
smirking - laughing
Crotchety?   Forgetful?   Hard of hearing?
"Eh!  What did you say, Sonny?"
I never bargained for Old Age.  Slipping in insidiously
I never said O.K. to this deal          
We never shook hands over it and agreed - No
It just stomped in boldly and coldly
Took hold and...Wiped out the YOUNG DAYS
As though it had the right - I never said it did, but, here it is
And now?
I have to cope with though Life's Struggle were not enough!
To mold - and - to refine!
I find Old Age around my bend
There at my door greeting me with its own Inimitable Stance.
Just there...Dare I befriend this Stranger?
Dare I not?
To fight this inevitable caller will drain me of whatever energy remains.
Perhaps, then, I'll embrace Old Age, this unfamiliar cloak of time,
Life's Dome,
And sing old age a lullaby…
Lamentations 3: 22 -25  Holy Bible, NKJV

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  Great is thy faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!”  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
Thank you, Dear Father, for the confidence in knowing that each step we take, You have walked before us.  Thank You for Your direction and guidance ~ for we are lost without you.    In Jesus' Name,  Amen