Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Growing Older

Most of the time, I do not see myself as being old.  I am reminded of my age only when I go to bed at night and those darn aches and pains just start getting pesky.  However, I have been thinking of age lately, (ordinarily nothing more than a number.)

This month, I accepted a month long assignment to provide psychiatric coverage in a center for cognitive disorders in Osage Beach, Missouri.  I did it mainly so I could spend some time  in my condo in this resort town that I had not visited in years. In the process of honing my geripsych skills, I have to come to terms with the inevitability of growing old and what that means to me.

My love, Luis, had been suffering from that virus, flu or flu-like whatever that a lot of people have been getting this winter.  He is my age and recalls being felled by illness only once in his life when he had acute appendicitis.  He exercises, eats right, is very involved with his children and is active from dawn to midnight.  He is always coming up with strategies for what he calls living well in our 70's. (Sadly, it includes exercise which is not in my vocabulary. I do yoga already. I protest to him. Is that not enough? He urges me to swim and walk and bike.)

That this flu-like illness would render him at 50 per cent activity is truly unacceptable to him.  And now he has a slow heart rate which precludes him from driving until the doctors can make a definitive treatment plan.  These last two weeks of his body saying, "Wait a minute.  I need to slow down for a moment" is just really difficult for him.

I ask myself.  What happens when denial no longer works for the aging body?  It gives Luis and I pause.  Dying is no big deal.  It is continuing to live a full life in the face of the limitations of a body that has lived too long that requires some thought and preparation.  I am thankful that my children , indulge my independence and have not seen fit to take over my life. I plan to live the rest of my life with purpose and meaning even when I must inevitably accept limitations.

In 2007, Atul Gawande, published an article titled , Rethinking Old Age in the New York Times, where he is a regular contributor. Next to my son-in-law, Alex Tizon, Dr. Gawande is my favorite writer and story teller.  I have been rereading this article lately.  It is as timely now as when he wrote it 8 years ago.  I highly recommend it for anyone who hopes to grow old....someday.

2 comments:

Peter VanDeMark said...

I was reading you blog with interest because my past conversations with you have always been interesting as well as loving.
I am so happy that you are not alone and enjoying your life at the lake. It is so nice to look at the condo picture and I still feel as if were just yesterday that we there having such great times. Keep up writing in your blog and keep on reading.
Love you,
Pete and Elli

Nora Quiason said...

I know, Pete. Remember when we would plat tennis all day and stay up late at the Lodge listening to music? We were young then

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