Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The indignity of being Old.

A very personal sharing of my Dad's last day.  *

It was a little over 20 years ago when I was visiting at my brother's house. My Mom and Dad were there as well. We were in the kitchen. My brother and I were standing on each side of my Dad as he sat at the table. We were talking about some item that we had and I remember telling my brother, "I gave it to the old man.". My brother replied something as well about "the old Man".  My Dad was sitting there listening to us talk and then all of a sudden he looked up and said "I'm not old".  Dad must have been in his early sixties about that time, so yes he was not too old.

I always referred to my Mom as the old lady. Even sometimes calling her that "crazy old lady".  It was never in a hurtful way. If it hurt her she never said. We teased each other and she liked to laugh and confide in her children.  I don't regret how my relationship was with Mom. She and I were good. I truly loved my Mom. My brother said that I called them old man and old lady as I was trying to be cool.  Not sure if that was the case. I think for me, it was a relationship thing. We could tease, or I could tease and they would forgive. Anyway the post is not about my shortcomings on the relationship I had with Mom and Dad, it is how the "Old" had got to them.

This extraordinary woman just died recently; her name was Maya Angelou .  Now I don't believe for her that Old had reached indignity. Some people are like that: grace touches them or they live with dignity until the end. She is one of the exceptions where old doesn't rob them of dignity. Sadly for many of us that is not the case.

They, the old become a burden. They are ignored and left to live in care homes, "old folks homes". The homes are fine in many cases with caring staff, but it is the isolation that becomes their indignity. Many of them will sit forgotten and have few a visitor. We say we treasure our Elders. I would hope that were true. I see some Cultures still do that. Reality is that many of us don't. We grow impatient with the stories of the old. The constant repetition of stories. The loss of thought when telling a story. The indignity of forgetting. I am ashamed at myself for some of my behaviour and actions with my parents. That is regret that will haunt me to when I get the "Old". 

The old is worse when our loved ones get sick. That is when the Old really robs them. It takes what independence they have left and steals it. The people become dependent on the schedules of others. Can't go to the bathroom. Need to have someone give them medication or spoon feed them food. Change their underwear for them. And the worse part of Old is the time when it takes their will to live.  Eating becomes a chore. Living becomes a dreadful existence. We want our people to live but at what cost?

My Mom told me that when you get old the little bumps of everyday life hurt more and take longer to heal. She said it is hard getting old. My Mom watched her Mom suffer for a long time. Granny had to be put in the care home, bed ridden and unable to speak.  It was hard for Mom. She said if she ever gets to old put her in a home, it is hard to care for someone. We never got the chance to put her in a home. She was pretty good until the Cancer got her. Took a month from diagnosis to grave. For Dad it was two months from diagnosis to grave. Both went through that ugly time before they finally die. Where they suffer immensely. That is another old indignity, the on set of diseases.

Some people get the old when they are relatively young, while others don't get the old at all. If you're lucky you don't get the old and are active right to the end. Where a nice sleep is all that happens  or a stop of the heart.  It hurts to lose them but it is merciful that they didn't have to suffer through the old.

Old became to my head because of what I say all the time. I call people OLD BAGS. Not to their face of course, but from the safety of inside a car. It was the other day when I was driving with my wife and I said, "holy heck she looks good for an old bag. She must be about fifty".  My wife said "don't be calling people old, especially when they are younger than you, or me".  I put this on my facebook status and my Auntie gave me heck. She doesn't like it that I refer to people as old. I remember I referred to my Mom a while back as the "old lady" and my Aunt gave me heck for that. So was thinking about the Old for a while now. 
Note*  I loved my Dad. Never told him that. He didn't eat for the last four weeks of his life. It was a horrible event in my life (and my sibling and Auntie). I don't share it lightly.

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