Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The endgame

I haven't posted about the elders lately.  Not because they haven't been moving apace down that slippery slope, however.  We got a rather frantic call from Thyrza Saturday evening that Grampie was suffering from what we immediately diagnosed as acid reflux.  We've seen it before--a dozen times or two.  "Have you given him Tums?" we asked.  "That's what started it,"she told us. As quickly as she could push the wheelchair (which isn't very fast!), she hurried him down to the nurse on duty, had his blood pressure taken, and called to tell me it was 190/100. "We'll be right over," we told her.  We were already in our car, planning to go out to dinner by ourselves.  You see how these things work.  When we got there, they were sitting by the front door, and Grampie was...well, maybe this really is too much information.

Anyway, after a somewhat confused conversation, we went back upstairs to their apartment, and we practically had to force-feed more Tums on Grampie.  I have to admit, I stood back beyond the counter in the kitchen.  My gag reflex has become more quick to react as I've aged, so staying out of the line of sight made it possible for me to continue the conversation.  Once we got there, Thyrza let Beve take over bossing his dad, which was a good thing.  Beve's bigger and stronger now and a whole lot of muscle was needed, at least mentally.  Grampie resembled a two-year-old child Saturday, one in the throes of the 'terrible two's', to be exact.  Beve practically had to force-feed those Tums, and even when the symptoms began to go away, Grampie refused another, refused to change out of his clothing that he'd made a mess of, and...well, it wasn't a pretty sight, my friends.

But that isn't the end of the story.  Yesterday, Beve took Grampie to the doctor because clearly Grampie's acid reflex medication is no longer doing its job (this is the third such seige).  When the doctor asked about the situation, Grampie looked at Beve blankly.  He hadn't the faintest idea what Beve was talking about.  Thyrza had written a long list of concerns to ask the doctor, too.  One of them was, "He doesn't cover his mouth when he coughs."  Another was, "He has a bad cough, with very thick flem."  When we talked to her about this list last night, particularly those two things, she hadn't the faintest idea what we were talking about when we told her about Saturday.

I've known he's in that shape.  But it comes up and slaps up in the face now and then.  Still startles us with every new thing.  And we've only suspected that she's in a similar situation. So all this is very telling.  No wonder she gets as angry as she does.  No wonder.  AND...imagine the difficulty of the two of them living together.  Like two small children who play simultaneously but not actually capable of interacting.  Thankfully, they live where they do, and have daily help.  They can't manage but don't have to.

There's a new application on Facebook that can show a person what she'll look like when she's old.  I think people are getting a huge kick out of it, and I'm sure it's hilarious.  But it seems to me that if we want to look at our future, we do well to gaze into the eyes of those who are actually living their last days.  Beve has a bird's eye view of who he will be in the face of his dad.  I'm not saying Beve will get Alzheimer's, anymore than I will because Mom had it.  But we can learn from our elders about how to play the endgame with grace.  Grampie does it better than anyone I've ever seen.  Despite his limitations, and they grow by they month, he continues to be a sweet man who is lovely to be with-- "A little old man, just trying to paddle as fast as [he]can."  He says those words with all the humor left to him.  And Beve will be the same.

What will I be?  Who will I be?  Beyond the wrinkles in my face and eyes sunk so deep in my face you'll need a rope and flashlight to get down to them, who will shine out of my essential self?  When I forget everything--if I do--will God still be the center of my soul?  That's what I stand on. Today and (should I live so long) forty years from now.

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