Monthly Archives: November 2020

Aging

Aging!  Who would ever have thought?  I never in my life thought about aging, but lately, it’s really hitting me.  When I was born in at the end of 1948, neither of my grandmothers were even 50 years old.  They were born in January and March of 1900.  It was always easy to know my grandmothers’ ages because whatever the last two numbers of the year it was, that was their age was their age.  One passed away at 90 years old, the other at 91. They were my “old” grandmothers.  I kind of have to laugh at that now.  Both of them were almost 49 years old when I was born.  I thought these two women were ancient!  I look at photos of them, and I still think they were ancient for their ages.

My grandmothers at my wedding. They were both 70.

Age is relative, I know.  My grandmothers were both immigrants to the United States.  My dad’s mom was almost 30 years old when she arrived, and my mom’s mother was only ten.  Maybe that is why they seemed so old to me—they had hard lives as immigrants.

Next month I will be 72 years old.  It kind of has me blown away.  I never felt bothered about hitting the milestone birthdays—when I get more into the decade of those milestones do those numbers get to me.

Seventy-two?  When I was a child I dreamt of being a grown-up.  I never dreamed of being a senior citizen. I dreamt of being a mother–never even thought about being a grandmother.  I find it hard to believe I have been retired for so long.  I loved my work in Human Resources.  I think I could do it today—then reality hits me—I don’t know what laws have changed since I left in 2013.  I was really good with compliance issues because I was always up to date on the federal and state laws that my profession had to follow.  I was an expert at benefits (health insurance and pension plans).  Most companies have eliminated pension plans, and the health insurance world was turned upside down in the last decade.  I have no idea what the new rules are.

That’s when it hits me that I must be old.  I am out of touch with the working world.  I couldn’t fill out a resume and get a job interview if I wanted one.  The working world has passed me by.  On the other hand, I have happily passed it up for new and great adventures that I could never have working full time.

My body tells me that I am aging.  That is what really gets to me.  If I sit too long, when I stand up, it takes a second for all the muscles and bones to get the message from my brain it is time to walk, and to do so without a bit of stiffness.  Then after a couple steps, I am good, but those first couple steps always take me by surprise.

I cannot complain.  I am almost 72 years old, and really have no health problems that require a multitude of prescription bottles.  In fact, the only prescriptions I have are for my dry eyes, and for occasional acid reflux.  That’s it.  Knock on wood!  

Time marches on and it waits for no one.  I am aging.  I told Dennis the other day that if something happened to me, the newspaper headline would say “an elderly woman was . . . .”  I  have read that in the newspaper about people who was in their 60’s, but I’m in my 70’s, so I know what the headline is going to say.

Dennis & I. The elderly.

It is stunning to me to think that I am in the autumn of my life—maybe even the winter.  I have had a good life.  There have been some pot holes along the way (some really bad ones that almost took me out), but on the whole I have had a wonderful life.  I have great relatives.  I love the fact that over the years I have gotten to know so many of my cousins on a deeper level.  I feel blessed to have come from such a large family that has connected so well together—even with ones I didn’t know in my youth. I have become friends with many with whom I attended high school–the most of these friendships in the last 20 years because of reunions. My life is full and rich.

I have four adult sons, with wives and families.  They are all doing their thing, and I just watch from afar.  It just seems so odd that I am the matriarch of the family!  Ha!  I like that—it sounds so official.  It sounds like I should be ruling over something or someone—well, not in this family!  Nor do I want to do that.  I am grateful that they are functioning adults, with their own special sets of problems that they as adults have to resolve.  Oh, and my grandkids.  I love those kids—but most of them are not even kids anymore.  They are young adults.  Where has the time gone?

I guess it will be until my dying day that I will find it odd to be one of the “elderly.”  That is not where my brain is.  Hopefully, even if my body one day wants to start giving out, I hope my brain will still be the young person that I feel.  I hope that my mind will be sharp for a long time—where I can “get the joke” or even “make the joke.”  In the meantime, I will continue hiking four miles on a mountain, reading, writing, sewing, and connecting with people.

I have gained wisdom over these years.  Sometimes we look at young people, and shake our heads, thinking why don’t they get it?  Why don’t they know what they are doing?  Then I remember that I was no better, and probably worse.  I am sure my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents shook their heads when they watched me in my youth.

Me with 2 of my sons–future elderly!

We don’t learn from other’s mistakes.  We learn from our own.  Some of us are slower to learn than others, but on the whole we have learned.  We have gained wisdom.  We have gained patience.  

It still will feel odd to me as the birthdays come and go.  My sister and I are the only two left from our primary family, both parents and one sister gone.  One day we will be gone, and our kids will be the elderly ones.  Do you think it will come as much as a surprise to them as it has to me?  

Senses That Bring Back Memories

It is interesting how our senses bring back old memories.  Hearing a song from the past can put me right in a place of my youth.  I remember and feel the feelings I had at the time.

Recently I made a recipe from Joanna Gain’s Magnolia cookbook.  It was a pasta dish, and it was delicious.  I commented to Dennis that I used to order a dish very similar from from a restaurant I used to go to.  I could see the restaurant in my head, I could feel the feel of the place, but I couldn’t put a name to the restaurant.  It was so frustrating.  Last night I made the recipe again.  I am glad I cut the recipe in half the first time because, although the recipe says it makes six servings, that was an understatement.  

This recipe was so good, and once again the memory of that restaurant came but this time I looked up at Dennis and said, “Macaroni Grill.”  Just out of the blue it came back to me.  Dennis commented that I had taken him there a couple times before the restaurant closed all its locations in Missouri.  I didn’t remember that we had gone there.

What I remembered was very significant.  I told him the memory I had was right after my sister, Judy, was diagnosed with cancer, and was told they could only give her palliative care.  For those who do not know what that means—they had no way to get rid of this cancer where it was located in her body and the type of cancer it was.  They could try to slow its growth and make her comfortable, but in the end, the cancer would win.  She was only 67 years old.

I vividly remember coming to the restaurant.  Judy’s husband, Ev, was there already.  Judy was coming with our other sister, Marilyn.  Marilyn had flown to St. Louis from West Virginia to be with Judy when her treatments would begin.  The two walked into the restaurant, and sat down across from Ev and me in the booth.  Judy looked great—you couldn’t tell by looking at her that she had just been given this awful diagnosis.  

As I told Dennis this memory, all the feelings I had that day came flooding back.  I told him that Judy talked about the diagnosis, and then she stopped.  She took a breathe.  I could tell she was fighting back the tears.  As I told Dennis this story, and was about to say how Judy reacted, I had to stop, I had to catch my breathe.  My voice got shaky, and I had to fight the tears.  It is happening as I write this.  The emotions rose to the surface just remembering that evening.  I looked at Judy, and quietly said, “It’s okay to cry.”  She took another deep breathe, and then said with a smile on her face, “Not in the middle of a restaurant.”  I will remember that line always.

Judy was four years older than me, and our other sister was six years older than me.  Those two were best friends, and I was like the odd man out.  There was a period of time, when I was Judy’s playmate.  Marilyn was a young teenager, and Judy was still little and wanted to play.  We became playmates.  I remember playing paper dolls with her—which was one of my most favorite things—I had Lennon Sisters paper dolls, and Pat Boone paper dolls.  (I had to have boy paper dolls—the girls needed boyfriends)!  Our play time was short lived as Judy also became a teenager, and no longer needed a playmate.

Judy, me, & Marilyn

My most fond memory of Judy was when I had my first child.  She was a nurse at Missouri Baptist Hospital where I delivered all my babies.  She had been a labor & delivery nurse, but had moved to the intensive care unit.  On Sunday morning, September 10, 1972, I was in labor at the hospital.  My husband was in Manhattan, Kansas, and was driving back to St. Louis when I told him I was in labor.  My mom brought me to the hospital.  Back then only husbands were allowed with the patients in labor and delivery.  

Then Judy showed up at my bed.  The nurses called her to tell her I was there.  She took a quick break from her area, to come see me.  She told me it was rather quiet that day, and since my husband wasn’t there, the nurse in charge told Judy that if she could take the time when I was ready to deliver, she could scrub in to be with me.  I was good with that—I had no idea what to expect.

A couple hours later I was ready to deliver my first child.  Back then the method of pain relief most used was a paracervical block.  The doctor would use a long needle syringe to reach the cervix.  Only the tip of the needle was inserted, and the pain medication was administered.  Well, the first one was wearing off, and they doctor administered a 2nd dose.  I could feel all the pressure but not the pain.

Judy scrubbed in and came in the delivery room with me.  She was the best delivery coach.  I couldn’t feel the contractions any longer due to the 2nd shot.  She laid her arm across my pregnant belly, and as the contraction started, she would push me forward and tell me to push.  She was there when Matthew Christian Taylor came into this world with a head of black hair.  As soon as he was delivered, an announcement came over the hospital intercom, “five-five-five, intensive care, five-five-five, intensive care.”  Because I had previously worked at this hospital, I knew “5-5-5” was a code blue—a cardiac arrest.  Upon hearing this announcement, Judy bolted out of the delivery room to her area, and as she was getting on the elevator, my husband was getting off the elevator.  The nurses saw him coming and threw him a gown and told him to go into the delivery room.  It was good to be having your baby with people you worked with—the baby was there already—no need to scrub in, just go be with her.  I don’t think they would have done that with any other dad who showed up late.

The other huge memory I have of Judy was seven years later, when I had an ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy) that almost took my life. The doctors did exploratory surgery to figure out why I was hemorrhaging, so I had an incision from my breast bone to my pubic bone. I was given five units of blood in the operating and recovery rooms. It was a harrowing experience. Judy would drop down to my room every day when her shift was over. She would ask me if I coughed recently—I hated telling her no because then she handed me a pillow to hold against my abdomen, and would tell me to cough. Next she asked me if I walked that day. Of course, I hadn’t, so she would get my slippers and robe, and help me out of bed, and she walked the halls with me. She would tell me that I need to do this to heal. I hated it because it hurt so much. I was in the hospital for eight days. Everyday around 3:30 pm, I knew her shift was over, and she would be in my room making me get out of bed to walk. I wasn’t excited or happy about it, but as I look back, what loving care she gave me.

Now years later, she had been given a death sentence, and there is nothing I can do to help her.  I spent as much time as I could being at her bedside in the hospital, and when she was home, coming to her home to be with her.  From the time she was diagnosed until her death was slightly over three months.  It was probably the hardest three months of my life, watching life ebb away from my sister.

When I would visit her, I always had my laptop with me because 99% of the time she was sleeping.  On July 15, 2012, I made this entry which I titled, “In the Midst of Suffering.”  Judy went to the presence of Jesus on August 9, 2012.  I am grateful that eating this delicious meal brought back memories of my sister.  I miss her, but I know I will see her again one day.  Here is what I wrote:

It has been a long time since I have written anything.  Life just moved on like it had everyday.  There were the regular struggles, but they could just slide off my shoulders.  In the last few weeks, the things in my life cannot just slide away.

Judy is very ill  Her cancer is in her liver and instead of getting better, she is sicker day by day.  Want to feel helpless in this world?  Be around a very sick person.  Be around a brother-in-law who says he doesn’t need any help.  I sit in her room and she sleeps.  Just sleeps.  Her face is red with fever.  She opens her eyes for seconds and then falls back asleep, and I sit there wondering what I could do to make her feel better, to make her well.  And there is nothing.  So I visit with her husband and chat, and go to my computer and read or write, but concentrating is not easy.  Nurses come in and out.  They change the infusion bags.  I watched 2 units of life-giving blood go into her veins, but I don’t see more life.  I see a big brown bag of something, dripping into her–the chemotherapy drugs.  It will be hanging there for 24 hours.  Big bags of fluid and little bags of specialized meds and antibiotics flow into her veins.  And yet she still sleeps.

Do you want something to eat?  “NO” is the answer.  But with the fever she does ask for a lot of water.  No nourishment.  How does one get well without nourishment?  I remember her being so frustrated with Dad when he refused nourishment, and now the tables have turned.  

Ev, very emotionally, says he is afraid he will not bring her home. I think she might go home, but not healthy. I don’t know how she will get in and out of the house. She is too weak to walk. That house is not ADA compliant! Ha! Who would have thought of that? It is a house for healthy people, not sick people. How do we bring her home?

The tears well up when I see so many hurdles.  It aches in my chest.  And all I can do is sit there for 8 hours, go home exhausted, as if I just ran a marathon.  Sleep came easy.  I’m too tired to think of anything else.  

This is a good time for me to get in my “God Spot.”  That very spot where I know I am completely loved by the creator of the universe.  How awesome is that?  He loves me completely.  He loves Judy completely.  He holds us all in his arms.  I close my eyes and I feel his loving arms around me.  I feel the comfort he gives.  Is my sister suffering?  Yes, she is.  But I must not forget that Christ suffered to death.  He knows pain, he knows suffering.  He understands, and not only does he hold me in his arms, he holds Judy in his arms.  See the scars?  He suffered.  He knows.  He loves.  

Tears flow.  My breathing stops for a second.  I don’t know her pain.  I don’t know Christ’s pain.  I only know my pain.  If feels so selfish.  I am here.  I am waking up, eating, walking, talking, seeing my family, seeing my friends.  I am having good days and bad days, I am experiencing life, and it all seems so selfish right now.  Yet, God knows.  He says that is okay–he loves me in my weakness and in my strength.  And I need to feel his loving arms right now.

The last photo of sisters together. 2012