It’s Hard to Get Old

 

We sat around the oaken table following the singing performance. My friend was sitting next to me; Eloise was sitting on my other side; and Joe sat quietly next to her. He seemed especially restrained after enjoying the music. I listened in to his conversation with Eloise:

Joe: I think it’s time for us to head home.

Eloise: Sure. That’s okay with me.

Joe: So, do you have the car keys? I can’t seem to find them (as he checks his pockets).

Eloise: No, I don’t have them either. (She casts a glance at me, one of perplexity and shrugs her shoulders.)

Joe: Well, we must have walked down the hill to come here. I don’t recognize any of the people here (as he looks around the room). Do you? We usually just walk from the Crown Towers.

Eloise: What? (She asks “what” every time Joe speaks to her.)

Joe: We must have walked (he says, leaning closer so she can hear him).

Eloise: Okay.

I watched this exchange, which went on for a minute or two, realizing that Joe’s anxiety and Eloise’s perplexity were growing with each passing moment. Finally, I caught Joe’s eye—

Me: Joe, I’m pretty sure that you live here.

Joe: I do? Okay (followed by a long pause).

Then he looked at me and shook his head slowly.

Joe: This getting old is sure hard, isn’t it? (We looked at each other nodding.)

Me: You’re right, Joe. It sure is.

* * * *

[Joe and Eloise are fictitious names; they are not a couple. They are both residents in the memory section of this facility, and have been there for quite a while.]

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  1. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

      They say God has a plan but I surely can’t see how memory diseases fit into it.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    They say God has a plan but I surely can’t see how memory diseases fit into it.

    I don’t believe there is a set plan or we couldn’t have free will, and I don’t think G-d interferes with nature. G-d may inspire us, give us consolation and strength. But the one thing we know, because G-d ensured that we wouldn’t live forever, is that we will all grow old and die.

    • #2
  3. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    They say God has a plan but I surely can’t see how memory diseases fit into it.

    This is an opportunity to know how much God loves us by the love and caring of the people around us, through whom He works. It is an opportunity for the caregivers to spread God’s love to others, and by that love be known as His children.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    On the plus side, they don’t have to remember the Clintons.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Juliana (View Comment):
    This is an opportunity to know how much God loves us by the love and caring of the people around us, through whom He works. It is an opportunity for the caregivers to spread God’s love to others, and by that love be known as His children.

    So very true, @juliana. That’s one reason I volunteer. I think one of the most painful moments for patients are those moments of lucidity when they realize what they are losing.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    On the plus side, they don’t have to remember the Clintons.

    Ah, those little blessings.

    • #6
  7. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    My Mom is 91 and has lucid intervals and times where she can’t remember names of her grandkids. Which bothers her greatly. A tough, resilient child of the depression. I am fearful each time the phone rings.

    • #7
  8. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    My Mom is 91 and has lucid intervals and times where she can’t remember names of her grandkids. Which bothers her greatly. A tough, resilient child of the depression. I am fearful each time the phone rings.

    I’ll be forever grateful that my mum (who sounds like yours, albeit a very young woman during the London blitz)  was lucid to the end of her last weekend at age 90.

    But, when her niece died a few years before her, she grumbled that “Hilda jumped the queue” .  Mum had a sense of the order of things in life..  parents die before kids, the old before the younger.

    I remember well how much I feared the phone calls at unusual hours from the Toronto area code. I know what you are going through.

    I wish you and you Mum all of the best, and when it’s time, a peaceful passing.

    • #8
  9. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    My Mom is 91 and has lucid intervals and times where she can’t remember names of her grandkids. Which bothers her greatly. A tough, resilient child of the depression. I am fearful each time the phone rings.

    I’ll be forever grateful that my mum (who sounds like yours, albeit a very young woman during the London blitz) was lucid to the end of her last weekend at age 90.

    But, when her niece died a few years before her, she grumbled that “Hilda jumped the queue” . Mum had a sense of the order of things in life.. parents die before kids, the old before the younger.

    I remember well how much I feared the phone calls at unusual hours from the Toronto area code. I know what you are going through.

    I wish you and you Mum all of the best, and when it’s time, a peaceful passing.

    Thanks. I’m blessed with a large family. One sister died ten years ago. Mom, a young  81  at the time, aged several years in the weeks of my sister’s  death vigil. She fights though. “Rage, rage against the dieing of the light.” 

    • #9
  10. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    If you’re going to get old, you’d better be tough.

    • #10
  11. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    As an 82-year-old living in an independent retirement community, that strikes a little too close to home. Mind if I copy it for our monthly newsletter?

    P.S. Another example of why Ricochet is such a great site; lots of humor, love and news outside of politics.

    • #11
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    P.S. Another example of why Ricochet is such a great site; lots of humor, love and news outside of politics.

    Indeed.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    As an 82-year-old living in an independent retirement community, that strikes a little too close to home. Mind if I copy it for our monthly newsletter?

    P.S. Another example of why Ricochet is such a great site; lots of humor, love and news outside of politics.

    Please do. I’d be honored.

    • #13
  14. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    This is an opportunity to know how much God loves us by the love and caring of the people around us, through whom He works. It is an opportunity for the caregivers to spread God’s love to others, and by that love be known as His children.

    So very true, @juliana. That’s one reason I volunteer. I think one of the most painful moments for patients are those moments of lucidity when they realize what they are losing.

    This is all true. My father has dementia and we as a family have been caring for him at home since he was diagnosed almost 8 years ago. My mother who is elderly herself is the main carer and the toll has been heaviest on her. It’s been extremely difficult at times but my brother and I would now also say it’s been a privilege. Juliana said something very profound there that I don’t have the words to say myself. When I look into my dad’s face I see him as the little child he was long ago. I wasn’t close to him as a teenager and young woman and I was so angry about things that weren’t his fault. When his condition first started to get worse I was resentful and bitter. Somehow when he needed more care, through the actions of feeding him and cleaning him and dressing him I changed. I’m better for it.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    On the plus side, they don’t have to remember the Clintons.

    Not having to shop for birthday and Christmas presents has its benefits too . . .

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I remember reading this story:

    An old man went to visit his wife at the nursing home every day.  Even though she had Alzheimer’s, he met her and they’d take a short walk together.  After doing this for a couple of years, one of his friends finally got the courage to ask him why:

    Friend:  Joe, why do you visit your wife every day when she doesn’t even know who you are?

    Joe:  Because I know who she is.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m very touched by the sharing of personal stories, of illnesses of parents and loved ones. I can’t imagine watching someone you care for sliding into this fog of reality. They often remember old stories, so that’s another way to stay connected.

    • #17
  18. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    This is an opportunity to know how much God loves us by the love and caring of the people around us, through whom He works. It is an opportunity for the caregivers to spread God’s love to others, and by that love be known as His children.

    So very true, @juliana. That’s one reason I volunteer. I think one of the most painful moments for patients are those moments of lucidity when they realize what they are losing.

    But you were there to comfort them and help them be safe. 

    • #18
  19. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    LOL.  The cafeteria is about the equivalent of two or three short city blocks from the building I work.  I usually just walk it but if the weather is not great for walking I might drive over.  I also car pool to work.  If it’s my day to drive I go pick up the other guys.  If it’s not I wait in front of my building for the driver to pick me up.  One day. I’m waiting and waiting for the driver to pick me up.  After a while I get a buzz on my phone from one of the other guys saying why it’s taking me so long to pick them up.  I suddenly realize I had driven.  OK, now I walk out into the parking lot looking for my car in the general carports I usually park it.  It’s not there.  I wander around looking for it.  Can’t find it.  After a good bit of time, it dawns on me I had driven to the cafeteria that morning and walked back, leaving the car there.  I walked over to the cafeteria, and yep, there it was.  

    Now how many instances of dementia could be cited from that experience?  (1) Walking back from the cafeteria, forgetting I had driven over.  (2) Forgetting it was my day to drive the carpool.  (3) Forgetting where I had left the car.  

    LOL, and this happened before I had turned fifty years old.  Of course I had to face a very unhappy carpool that afternoon.  

    • #19
  20. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I have always wondered why the Bible seems to make no mention of the kind of dementia and memory loss that we see in the modern world. Many of the other afflictions of age are mentioned. Perhaps some Bible scholars here have some thoughts.

    • #20
  21. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    In Don Juan in Hell, Shaw through Don Juan says that nature created man to understand itself. On that note I have spent my entire life seeking knowledge, reading, studying, and conversing with knowledgeable people. My goal at one point was to pass on all I had learned onto my son. I have long since realized that, like karma, knowledge is something that we each have to seek and gain for ourselves. It is a terrifying thought that at some point all I have learned would disappear from my awareness, that awareness itself would be limited to the moment with neither past or future accessible. I am going to turn 75 later this week. I am still very active, ride my bike a minimum of 150 miles a week, and, though I do at times forget a word or a name, I do feel as though my mind is still intact. Both of my parents remained mentally acute throughout their lives, though my mother was about my current age when she died and my father died in his 80s. My doc tells me I should live well into my 90s. That is a decent prospect, but only if what I have remains accessible to me.

    • #21
  22. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    My Mom is 91 and has lucid intervals and times where she can’t remember names of her grandkids. Which bothers her greatly. A tough, resilient child of the depression. I am fearful each time the phone rings.

    Mine was too! She was “ornery” (and she loved that word). When her memory started to go, she’d say, “I’m losing my mind. It’s a good thing I had such a good one to start with!” And we’d all laugh, but it was true!

    She was also a terrific faker. She had cultivated refinement over a lifetime (my sibs and I love the BBC TV show Keeping Up Appearances because Mrs. Bucket (pronounced “Boo KAY,” just ask her) reminds us so much of Mom (she preferred “Mother,” but she’s not the only ornery one). So when she could no longer remember her grandkids or even us kids, you’d walk into her room in “the place” (as she called it), and she’d say, “Ooohh, look who’s here!” As if she had a clue.

    It was sad to watch her memory decline, but she retained the essence of who she was. Strange and beautiful, that.

    • #22
  23. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    Getting old sucks.  

    The alternative sucks more.  

    • #23
  24. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    “Old age isn’t a battle, old age is a massacre”. Phillip Roth

    I have a post I’ve been working on about what I wasn’t told about getting old, but I’m afraid it might scare off the young-uns. 

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    I have a post I’ve been working on about what I wasn’t told about getting old, but I’m afraid it might scare off the young-uns. 

    Go for it. They won’t believe you anyway.

    • #25
  26. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    Both of my parents remained mentally acute throughout their lives, though my mother was about my current age when she died and my father died in his 80s.

    You’ll probably be fine.

    • #26
  27. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    When I was a young man (20’s) there was a popular book out titled, Growing Old is Not for Sissies.  I remember seeing it in bookstores.  For some reason it stuck in my memory.  It was about how seniors can keep in shape like young people.  They had an old man with a six pack abdomen on the cover and the body of a body builder.  I think I reflected I would keep like that some day when I finally got old.  Well, I’m now old and I never did!  LOL.

    Actually Amazon still has it listed, here.  

    • #27
  28. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    @she recently created the Ricochet Caregivers Group for those Ricochetti living with this issue.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    My doc tells me I should live well into my 90s. That is a decent prospect, but only if what I have remains accessible to me.

    That’s the unsettling part. I think I can handle “absent-mindedness,” but I do wonder about what I’m losing. And how I will further age.

    • #29
  30. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I have always wondered why the Bible seems to make no mention of the kind of dementia and memory loss that we see in the modern world. Many of the other afflictions of age are mentioned. Perhaps some Bible scholars here have some thoughts.

    If I had to guess, people with Dementia didn’t manage to live very long back then.

    • #30