Monday, April 12, 2010

Hairs on his head

The men in my life: J, Grampie and Beve...and aren't they are trio?
A three hour doctor's appointment today.  That's a record even for us.  Of course, the doctor, whom I've known for eight years, didn't know what he was walking into when he opened the door to the song and dance troupe formerly known as our family.  Something to behold, I'm sure.  I wasn't actually present for those first moments.  There were four of us in the waiting room, and a couple of us have enough brain cells to realize that that was probably too many people to squeeze into one of those little examining rooms for this appointment.  It was obvious that a trip to Starbucks would probably do us all a world of good, but only one of us could go, so I took that bullet.  I know, I'm quite the martyr, aren't I?  I had a book, a latte, and was prepared to hole up for the duration.  However, not halfway through the cup, I got a text from Beve that said, "Can you join us?" I could practically hear the panic in his voice.  "Coming," I texted as I strode (not a verb I'm prone to using!) back to the car.
They were trying to reconstruct Grampie's health history with the doctor when I got there.  Unfortunately, these are not things Beve keeps in his head.  Nor the elders, clearly.  And, unfortunately, along with old phone numbers, an assortment of birthdays, I also have a file cabinet in my brain marked 'family medical history,' had already opened it up and pulled out Grampie's file by the time I got there.  The doctor instantly saw that I could untangle the confusion, and we waded through a rather extensive, comprehensive medical exam.  By the end, we were all exhausted, hungry, a little sweaty.  Including the doctor, I'm pretty sure. I do realize why he's always so behind his appointment schedule.  I mean, three hours?

After a lupper (lunch-supper) at Grampie's favorite place--the Olive Garden, where he feasted on that 'chicken and dumpling soup' (meaning chicken gnocchi)--we came home and collapsed in a heap, thankful not to have any more appointments until...tomorrow, when there are two! Plus a blood test.  I'm telling you, this is my new job.

As I was checking out for Grampie, the receptionist said, "It's watching people like them (the elders) that make me feel determined to stay healthy and in good shape."  I didn't come up with a quick answer, but the truth is, Grampie has been an extremely healthy man.  And an athlete who was biking and playing handball well into his seventies.  Taking long walks well into his eighties.  He's 86 years old and his blood pressure is 106/78, with low choresterol.  And he weighs the same as he did in high school.  86 years old.  I mean, to live to be 86 years old and be as healthy as he is.  But stuff happens no matter what we do.  No matter what.

The reality is that we can only do so much.  God is in control of the rest of it. I know I'm no picture of health.  Far from it.  But I do know that God is in control, both of how long we live and of what things happen to us along the way.  Lately (and I may have mentioned this before) Grampie's been worried because he's losing his hair.  No one in his family has ever gone bald, he's told us more than once.  "But Grampie," we keep reminding him. "No one in your family has ever lived to be 86."  But he just can't get over those clumps of hair that come out in his comb now, hair he thought sure were his for life.

But you see, God says every hair on his head is counted.  The ones he loses and the ones he keeps.  The same is true for each of us.  He knows the pain that will creep up on us slowly in life and those that will catch us unaware in a single breath.  He knows and He cares and He walks with us in them.  I'm grateful for this knowledge today.  I'm grateful for it, because there was a single moment this afternoon when the doctor used a word that opened Grampie's old eyes wide in anxiety. "I don't think he's associated that word with what has been happening with him," I told the doctor. The doctor immediately softened his tone, and explained the possibilities in a gentler way.  You see, we've been protecting Grampie from that word.  For us, this pain has been creeping up slowly--we've watched him deteriorate until we whispered it to each other and then to his wife--and we decided there was nothing to be gained by telling him something we didn't know for sure, giving him the name for his memory problems that is the most feared of all memory names.  But in a single breath, the doctor gave him that name. "Alzheimers," he said.  Now that word is out there.  Probable.  A thing as tangible as a smell.  As tangible to Beve and me as a woman (6 years younger than Grampie) sitting in a wheelchair, staring blankly into space.

I'm thankful that Grampie doesn't have the same picture in his head.  In fact, by the time we left the doctor's office after the marathon appointment, I think he'd forgotten that word altogether.  It will raise its head to speak its name again.  But for now, it's enough that we heard it.  Grampie has enough to do to simply get through another day.  We'll carry his burdens for him.


Some of my favorite flowers--in our backyard --did I thank you for planting them last fall, Beve?



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