I have tried to do very little over the past few days, while I spend some time with my father. He celebrated his 82nd birthday on March 24, and it was the same day that he needed to have another blood test. Some party! But aging is not really a party, and as ailments occur the real frailty of the body becomes quite apparent. He spoke to his two grand daughters on Skype on his birthday and they each wished him birthday greetings and sang to him; that put a huge smile on his face.
When my father had a stroke towards the end of 2006 it was the major turning point of a life that had become very active since he decided to take early retirement in his mid-50s. He was truly self-reliant. He did things around his house regularly. He walked every day and he was a regular at the gym for aerobics classes with other seniors. He had taken up yoga, and became a good exponent. He drove his car, sometimes taking others who needed transport to near or far places. He did many things. Now, he can do very little for himself. That is quite a turn around. What he tries to do involves major effort and tires him quickly. His eyesight is now weak. He rests a lot. He also talks a lot, except if it involves the telephone. It’s good to see him and that he still has some feisty spirit. I have also enjoyed looking at photographs over the past few days that show him as a much younger, sprightly man.
When you do not live in the same place, staying as close as you would like to parents or children or relatives is a real challenge. In various ways, my family has spent too many years not in the same place: one of the less welcome aspects of globalization.
Having spent the past few days, trying to live at my father’s pace, I appreciate much more the things that I can do and take for granted: I’ve just come back from a late afternoon walk across a golf course. My legs both function as they have done most of my life. By contrast, my father can move only one leg freely, and barely move the other.
We take so much about living for granted and often forget that it takes very little to lose many functions that make life easy.