July 12, 2008

The Challenge of Aging

Just some crap that is circulating through the empty space between my ears. Had to move my grandparents again. They now live in a facility that provides more care. In many ways it has been great. They receive the attention they need and there is a lot less stress upon them and us.

But it is not easy to see them there. It is not quite skilled nursing, but it is not really living on your own. It is a place in between the two, and it is probably the last home they'll ever have.

It is selfish, but I miss their old apartment in Hollywood. I miss driving through Laurel Canyon to go see them. I miss looking at the houses in the hills, peering out to catch the ruins of Houdini's place.

I miss hiking up to the third floor, listening to the echoes of our steps. I miss swimming in their pool and walking down Fairfax to grab an ice cream cone. I miss going down the street to Farmers Market.

I won't tell them, but this place will never be their home to me. When they left the apartment for Leisure Village in Camarillo I was a bit disappointed, but that place had a lot of charm. They had a little two bedroom house on a golf course. We'd head over early Sunday morning and enjoy brunch with them.

I'd take the kids outside and we'd wait for the wild hares to come bounding through. I'd pretend to be a wolf and chase them and the kids would roar with laughter. But eventually it got to be too hard. They were too far away for any of us to get to quickly and they just couldn't do it all on their own. So they moved to a place that was five minutes from my folks.

For a few years it worked out nicely, but as their bodies continued to break down they began to require more and more help. Eventually it became clear that they had to go somewhere that provided more support.

Overall their minds are still there. They may be a bit slow and some memories have faded, but they know what is going on.

My grandfather took me aside again and told me that he lived too long. Told me that he could handle outliving his money, but that not being able to take care of grandma was killing him. It is not the first time he has talked to me about this, but it is hard for both of us.

"Jack, I remember giving your grandmother piggy-back rides. She'd hop on my back and I'd just run."

"You see that old woman and I see the girl I kissed in high school."

He paused and looked away, or maybe I did. Either way it doesn't matter, we both needed a moment.

We shared the silence and I reached over and held his hand. He giggled and asked when my hands got to be so big. I smiled and reminded him that I have been bigger than him since the first Clinton administration. He is a political junkie so he appreciated the remark.

As we sat there I mulled it all over, just took it all in. He gave me some advice about this and that and told me to remember that I have years to accomplish my dreams. Reminded me that he wasn't saying to relax and not try to make them happen now, but to relax and understand that if I work I can make them happen.

And now for a side confession. Throughout my life I have been gifted with physical strength. Those who believe in astrology will say it is because I am a Taurus. I'll say that is good genes and a few hours a day carrying my desk around with me.

The point is that when grandpa said that you don't understand how hard it is when you realize you can't pick your girl up anymore it stuck with me. I can't conceive of that. I just can't conceive of a time when I am so weak that I can't muscle my way through things.

I am not foolish enough to believe that I can outrun the clock forever, but does time have to take everything away. The next time I put together a list of things I am afraid of I can add that to the list.

Isn't it nice to know that the fragile male ego is so helpful.

Anyway, it wasn't easy to see them in there. I am very thankful that at 39 I still have two grandparents. It is my good fortune, it really is. But I'd be lying if I said that the new joint didn't give me a few heebie jeebies.

Speaking of that, the big boy wants to know how you get heebie jeebies. I told him that you can find them at a special store called "The Willies." Guess where he wants me to take him.

Ain't life grand.


ilanadavita said...

Beautiful post, Jack!

Miriam L said...

If you want to find the heebie jeebies, go to the snake house in the zoo.

One Wink at a Time said...

Jack, I have to say that this is one of the top ten moving, insightful posts I've read in the Blogosphere this year. You are so in touch with your stuff, man. That's so cool.
I would tell you to thank your stars that you still have your grandparents but it's clear that you already do.
I remember when my grandparent's moved from their big, old rambling house that I loved to a little apartment that they were better able to manage. It was a very sad day for me. I was little and I never thought about how it may have felt for them, until just now... wow.

Jack said...

Ilana Davita,

Thank you.


That is one place.



nursemyra said...

lovely story. hope your grandparents are getting the care they deserve. if not, you can always apply to the gimcrack :-)

V-Grrrl said...

"You see an old old woman and I see the girl I kissed in high school."

Yeah, I know EXACTLY what he's talking about.

I lost my grandparents when I was little, both parents when I was 30, and despite though my parents had 10 siblings between them, I have only one aunt left. This means life is scrolling down and the next generation of names to disappear off the screen is mine.

It is hard to face. So is the mirror.

Jack said...

if not, you can always apply to the gimcrack :-)

We just might have to do that. ;)


Wow, you have had quite a bit haven't you.