knitnana: Musings on Aging….Family Events and New Realities

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Musings on Aging….Family Events and New Realities

I am not a Pollyana, at least I don’t think I am. I live daily with an autoimmune disease that makes it difficult to know from one day to the next how I will feel, whether or not I can walk properly, and whether I’ll continue to see as well as I currently do.

But lately, I’ve been given good reason to consider the fact of aging, and how much of a challenge it can be.

Some of you have read this blog long enough to know that I’ve lost a lot of the important people in my life at a relatively early age: my dad and my brother to heart disease, my mom, too, but while it wasn’t an early age for her, it was too early for me to lose her! My brother’s first wife (and DD’s godmother) is gone now, as well, too soon, to heart disease and other complications. My nuclear family is so much smaller now, and mostly comprised of the next generation, and a few of the last.

Recently, the remaining members of my family congregated for my DD’s wedding. It was a lovely, sunny, happy day, for the most part. I won’t be able to post photos, due to my DD’s privacy issues, which I certainly respect. But suffice to say, everyone was beautiful, and the ceremony had influences of Celtic tradition along with the touches most folks look for in a wedding ceremony! As beautiful as the bride was, the two ring bearers (my DGS’s) stole the show – and I think DD is mature enough to accept that! What else can you expect from two boys (ages 2.5 and 15 months) dressed entirely in white, one with a penchant for grabbing microphones and crooning with the best of Frank Sinatra impressions?

However, on the happy day, I was stunned to see some members of my family. It had been a year since my niece’s wedding when we were last together. One short year. What a difference it can make!

My mom’s & dad’s remaining sisters (those who could travel) were present, and more dependent on assistance for movement than I remembered. It was openly acknowledged that this would be the last trip south for some. Other family members (besides myself!) showed signs that mobility was being compromised or health was declining. No one discussed this. It was just my observation. I’ve since learned of family members’ recent (unhappy) diagnoses…it wasn’t mentioned at the wedding – no one wanted to mar the day. And privacy keeps me from identifying them here. But I am staggered by this new reality.

A few days later, I learned that a high school chum had suffered a heart attack at age 48. (We both know it’s really only been a year or two since we graduated - lolololol). She called asking for help from the only other woman her age she knew with the same experience – me. All her fear, confusion, and pain brought back every second of my own recovery.

So now I have the proof that time, indeed, marches on, carrying us with it, willy-nilly. We are indeed just short-term renters on this earth. And as much as I revel in the silly delight of my DGS’s antics, I have to accept that to have them, I must have aged, as must those who are dearest to me. It’s the cycle, the rhythm of life. We’re born, we grow old, we die.

We can safely say it isn’t fair. It’s not. But I won’t throw a pout about it. To age gracefully, in my mind, has always meant accepting what life hands you. But is acceptance grace? No, if that means letting these challenges beat me down. To me, the fight for every bit of physical strength, independence, and my own self-worth will continue to my dying breath. I hope it’s not denial, as I prefer not to dwell in that particular Egyptian river. I hope there is grace in the continued struggle for aging with dignity. I won’t go quietly!


Blogger Kelly D said...

As always, inspiring as usual! As a young woman with a chronic illness as well, seeing and meeting women with the same issues shows me,yes nana,that i can age and deal with a disease with grace! The inspiration i get from you is amazing! Always

10:16 PM  
Blogger Ruinwen said...

Ah Sallee,

Even in 5th century BC this struggle existed as eveident in the Riddle of he Sphinx, "What has one voice, and is four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?"

But how you choose to face the challange, now that is the key...and you my wonderful lady have found it. May you always walk in grace,


5:48 AM  
Blogger Birdsong said...

Oh Sallee, I am deeply touched by this. We are so close in age and my birth family has also shrunken at an alarming rate. At our recent family reunion (my husband's side), I realized how my mother and father in law have slowed down. You are right; this must mean that we at least look and probably act somewhat different ourselves. I am with you on the fight to have the best quality life possible - friends help, so thanks for being here for me.

11:41 AM  

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