The End

It’s coming.

Last June, my 85-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. She’s mending nicely, champing at the bit to get out of the house on her terms, driving, traveling, and all the rest. While she convalesces, my 85-year-old father has borne the lion’s share of the burden of her care. I’ve helped out whenever asked–taking days off from work, whatever is needed. In doing so, I’ve been able to observe them close-up. And I don’t like what I see.

My father and mother are the same age. I watch my father move about the house. He moves slower, now. His steps are no longer as sure as they were five, seven years ago. He doesn’t look sickly–for their age, both my parents are in pretty good health–but he seems smaller, frailer. Taking care of my mother has been hard on him. He’s tired, I can tell. His mind is still sharp, though. We talk about current events and such and his insights always enlighten me. The way he correlates the past to the present. Like I was wondering why the Democrats just didn’t go ahead and start impeachment proceedings against 45. He said it was because they don’t have anything on him, nothing that would stick. He pointed out that when Sen. Goldwater confronted President Nixon, the senator told the president he had a choice: Resign or be impeached. He also told Nixon if he chose to fight, there was enough evidence to convict, “and the Senate will convict you.” And that’s why the Democrats haven’t moved forward with the impeachment process. So I learned something. I always learn something from him, about how history and the present intersect. Not surprising, I guess. After all, we’re talking about a very smart man and someone who has close to a hundred years of history packed in his head. That’s a lot knowledge.

With my mother, I’ve noticed something disturbing. Her memory is deteriorating. Not her long-term memory but her short-term. My father and sisters have told me this before but I never really got a chance to witness it until now. Oh, she’s been checked out. She doesn’t have dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s just…age. She doesn’t get confused or anything. She just can’t remember. Sometimes whatever she’s trying to remember comes to her, sometimes it doesn’t. I know it bothers her but she’s still her bubbly self. Going to make the best of it, I suppose. Today I learned she really has no sense of smell anymore. I walked into their house and there was this godawful stink coming from the kitchen. It smelled like garbage. My two sisters and I hurried inside. Mommy was fixing herself some lunch and the smell was coming from the bowl she was using. Turns out what she’d planned to eat had gone bad–way bad. But she couldn’t smell it. It took the three of us almost ten minutes to convince her that whatever it was if she ate it, it would make her sick. And that’s another thing that’s disturbing. It’s mild, but my mother seems somewhat suspicious of us, that we’re trying to bamboozle her into something, or harassing her about something else. She’s never been like this. I think it might be because she knows there are things that are wrong and deep down, she wonders if we’re trying to take advantage of her. It’s heartbreaking because we would NEVER do that.

And then there’s my beloved Daisy Mae. Her body is failing her. She’s getting medical attention–k-laser treatments for terrible arthritis in her hips and knees–but I really don’t know how much longer they will do her any good. She’s been incontinent for quite a while. Yes, I do mind cleaning up poop. I know she can’t help it, so I don’t yell at her when she goes inside the house–well, except for when I’m the depression pit. It seems lately though, I’ve been cleaning up a lot more poop. Last night, she had an astonishing case of the runs. I can’t remember a time when she ever had diarrhea. I’ve no idea what that was about. Granted, she’s a garbage pail but as far as I know, she hadn’t eaten anything that would make her sick. In any event, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to make a very difficult decision about Daisy in the coming months.

I don’t want to face any of this. It’s too hard and knowing that death always comes at the end doesn’t make it any easier. It makes me wish I was 25 again and these questions and uncertainties were so far away they weren’t even a speck on the horizon. But they’re not. They’re here and now. And this time, I can’t run away.


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