November 24, 2005

Family Can be Stressful

It is close to midnight and I have survived another family dinner. I don't want to give any false impressions. I love my family and I enjoy spending time with them but right now there seems to be a higher level of stress than normal. I know the reasons why and some of them are things that I cannot help and perhaps that is why it is hard for me.

I am exceptionally lucky to have three grandparents. Each one of them is in their 90s. Within a few months two of them G-d willing will turn 92 followed by my other grandfather several months later.

From a mental standpoint all three of them are in good shape, although you can see the impact of age upon them. Their memories are not quite as crisp and there are little things that make it clear that they are not as young as they once were.

I am close with all of them. Each one of them has given me so much and asked very little in return so I am happy to spend as much time with them as I can because the end of the race approaches.

But I have to admit that I am finding some of the effects of aging to be hard. I admit that with a heavy heart because I know how much these changes bother them and I can't help but feel some guilt.

One grandfather and one grandmother are legally blind. One grandfather broke his pelvis around last March and since then has been forced to use a walker. I find it very hard to see him with the walker because he has always been fiercely independent, not to mention that in some ways I identify best with him. I see many similarities between him and myself.

The little things that we take for granted have gotten to be tough. As I mentioned he is legally blind so he is not able to read the paper and books the way that he used to. Since breaking his pelvis he has found it increasingly difficult to get up from a seated position and even putting on shoes is hard.

I help him with all of these things. I do it with a smile and he doesn't complain but I can feel his frustration. He used to tell me that if he had known that he was going to live as long as he has he would have taken better care of himself. I feel some guilt because I don't want him to be embarrassed and sometimes there is not much that can be done about it.

He has gotten stuck in his recliner a couple of times and in order for him to get out I had to basically pick him up.

The docs tell us that all three of my grandparents could keep on going for many years or it could all end tomorrow. I try hard to be thankful for the time that I have with them and to not worry about them but it is hard. One little fall and it could all come crashing down.

Did I mention that there is a severe hearing loss. What this means is that the normal roar at the dinner table is similar to sitting next to a running dishwasher. It is loud. It is noisy. There is a lot of clanking and crowing. You walk away from the table with a sore throat and question whether you had a conversation.

One on one the conversations are much easier. There is far less chaos and confusion and as I mentioned they really are pretty together.

Part of my stress is this fear that they are going to die, no the knowledge that they are going to die and that one day I will not have any grandparents left, just their memories. It is not how I want to live so I focus on the present, but I admit that sometimes it can be hard not to worry.

I am trying hard to make sure that they tell me their stories, my favorites and things that they never shared with me before. I want to be able to tell those stories too. I won't be able to argue as my grandfathers do about the best place to get a hot dog in Chicago, in part because they speak about places they ate at in their 20s.

I probably missed out on my opportunity to explore some of the bars in New Orleans that my grandfather used to hit in the 30's too, but such is life.

At a later date I plan on spending some more time writing my thoughts about my grandparents in more detail and certainly in a more polished manner. But for now let me say that even though things can be stressful I wouldn't have it any other way.

8 comments:

Pragmatician said...

Medical technology has helped us in many ways but is it always better?
Tough question!

Stacey said...

It is so hard to watch those we love as their health fails and their bodies betray them. It is a sad fact of life.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

It is indeed to watch the mental and physical changes that can take place among our loved ones.

It is good that you spent the day together.

jg said...

I lost all four of my grandparents within a five year time period. I grew up only a 45 minute drive from all of them, but moved far away as a teenager and wasn't able to spend the kind of quality time with them that it sounds like you are able to spend with yours. You are indeed lucky and it is wonderful that you are taking in their stories while you still have time with them. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

muse said...

You're a very lucky guy! Spend as much time with them as you can.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi guys,

Thank you all for commenting. I wouldn't give this time up for anything rough or otherwise.

MC Aryeh said...

I hope you are not just listening to the stories, but recording, writing and videotaping them as well. That would be an amazing treasury for you and your children and future generations..

Jack's Shack said...

Hi MC,

Yes, we are videotaping all of them.