Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Pain of Aging

For my mother, the pain of aging is real and it is hers. She takes Aleve like a druggie, at least twice daily and at specific times. If we are out and she has not brought a pill with her, it's a big deal. There are some days when the pain is so bad she can barely walk. Those are the days the arthritis has moved into her hip. Those are the days when she just sits, and allows me to do the rest of the "house things". Otherwise, it's her house, her kitchen, her garden ....

For my father, pain is not a major issue. He doesn't hurt. His problem is strength. And balance. And remembering. I'm not sure he really knew me today. His talk was very general, and he asked how it was in Kailua. Then he remember that I am living in Kahala, and Kailua is on a different side of the island. He's got enough memory to know that he isn't remembering, and that's painful.

For my brother and me, the pain is not physical at all. Except when I step on that once-broken foot wrong, or try hurrying down a flight of stairs. Then one ankle or one knee complain. The emotional pain which we are feeling is just as real, just as debilitating in its own way as any physical pain.

Last week our dad did not recognize my brother. At all. If we ask him what he had for breakfast, he does not know. He doesn't remember eating breakfast. He asked me about "the woman who manages the restaurant in the Advertiser Building". He sees her around town a lot, he says. He was asking about the Recreation Director for his nursing home. She has no connection to a restaurant, and he certainly isn't around town where he can bump into her.

We can have good conversations about things that happened before he was about 25 years old. I asked him today how he got his right-out-of-high-school job working on a ship. "I went down and applied, and got the job." he told me.

Why didn't he stay with it longer? "After a year I decided that my dream of being a seaman wasn't what I wanted after all. I resigned and took a job in Long Beach with Dohrmann." That's Dohrmann Hotel Supply, the San Francisco company that in 1939 sent him to Hawaii. It was also the first time that I'd heard he ever wanted to go to sea, although I knew he had been a Sea Scout all through high school. It goes a long way to explain his many years of activity with Waikiki Surf Club and the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association -- two organizations which he apparently helped found.

Today was not one of his better days. He usually devours a small bowl of fresh mango. This afternoon he picked, and did not empty the bowl. He didn't want to talk much, unless I asked a direct question about a time period he actually remembers. He realizes that his roommates are dying -- three since he arrived in the care facility in December 2008. The most recent was earlier this month.

Give thanks for those tidbits that come to light, even from a very tired 95-year-old mind. They are there, but only discovered when one listens, and asks the right questions. Don't forget to pray!

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