Of Fathers and Sons

Recently, I came across a picture of my father and me.  It was the last time I saw him.  It was around 2012.  Even then unfortunately, I knew how this story would end.IMG_9901

My father’s demons were his everyday companion, always ready and eager to steal from him any joy or happiness that he might find.  They had arrived early in his life and they were with him until the end.  That end came a year ago this October and he died in the worst way.  He was alone.

Life had been cruel to him this last couple of years.  My sister passed away and he began to unravel.  He made choices that drove people away, choices that ultimately ended his life.  His family lovingly tried, some more than others, to save him from himself.  Ultimately the choice was his and he was tired.  His demons and the alcohol were unrelenting.

I wasn’t always there for him.  I didn’t want to be. Though I was his only son, I was most likely also one of his many demons.  He desperately wanted our relationship to be different.  A father and his son, but his drinking was getting worse and I was unwilling to endure his temper, his pain, his life.  We were different and it was easier to stay away.  I was not part of the loving family that surrounded him, my Aunt, Uncles, Cousins, Step-Mother and Sisters were.  In the end, I was hundreds of miles away when my Step Sister told me that he was gone.

I now find myself reflecting on the last 10 years of our relationship.   It is filled with distance and quick phone calls.  He was always there for me but I was not for him. I made that choice.  I’ll live with that choice.  I accept that I could not have saved him, but it would have eased my conscience to have tried.   I am thankful for those that did what I was unwilling to do.

I have his laugh and I miss him.  I am slowly learning to appreciate what I once resented.  He made mistakes, he was human and he was my father.   In the end, we failed each other, him early and me later.   He is gone now and his demons with him.  He now lives peacefully in the memory of those who knew him and those who loved him.

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What Happened to Old and Happy?

Growing older is rarely kind.  It seems that for every story we hear of someone aging well, we hear of at least three or more who faced enormous health battles and after a heart wrenching struggle, ultimately lost.

I would also suggest that by the time you are 80, if you have not fought or are not fighting a life threatening illness, you are the exception.

We are living longer but at what cost?  Financially and emotionally, families are exhausted.  The lifespans of the terminally ill are now being lengthened, which is a wonderful gift, but like all gifts, a price is paid by all involved.

We are all generally aware of the enormous costs of medical care, long term care, rehabilitation and medicine.  Has anyone ever saved enough to cover the projected cost?  How do you pay for this and have the now fictional retirement of your dreams?  The circle of life, the dream, seems doomed to fail.  How do you make a plan at 30 for this?

This is a depressing thought but it is the reality faced by many we know.

I am not an expert in this field and have written this article based on my observations, speculation and conjecture. Having said that, I challenge you to prove me wrong.

To grow old, be healthy, comfortable and dare I say, happy, is bordering on being a miracle.  I would be curious to know if the amount of people who are “old” and actually “happy” today, with all of our medical advancements, is any higher than they were 100 years ago, all things being equal.  We may live longer today but how many are actually happy?

 

On Aging

What is it to grow older?  It seems so simple; we age gracefully, adapt to change, remain productive and useful all while our loving family takes care of us until our life ends.  And the end, it’s quick and doesn’t drag on.

Thats the plan, right?

I have been fortunate to have been a part of the lives of two Grandmothers on my Mother’s side.  Her Mother, Marge and Marge’s Mother, Ruth.

Ruth was always kind, small in stature and who, of coarse, drove the largest car that Cadillac ever made.   I think she sat on pillows and phone books to see over the steering wheel.  I remember when my Mother and Grandmother had to gang up and take her car keys away.  She was in her 90’s and was quickly losing her vision and hearing.  She lived alone up until the end at 99 and passed away quietly in her sleep.  She would tell me that she was tired, tired of being essentially deaf, blind and…alone.  My Mother and Grandmother (Marge) were always there for her but she missed those that shared her “mileage” as everyone she had known had passed away.  She would say that she wanted to “go”, sooner than later.  It was 1999.

Today, my Grandmother (Marge) is in her 90’s and is living with my Mother.  I’m very close to her and am quick to chastise my Mother when I feel my Grandmother is not being treated “right”.  Recently, she (Marge) was able to fly out and stay with us.  I’m noticing significant changes.  Her hearing is failing and she is now legally blind.  Walking is difficult and I’m uneasy about leaving her alone.  History is again repeating itself.

It was different with my Grandmother (Ruth), I didn’t have to be so involved. Today, my Mother, like her mother then, now shoulders the load while I’m receiving an education in caring for the elderly, in two week doses 2-3 times a year.

Of this, I have learned three things; 1. I need to lighten up on my Mother, she has an incredibly difficult role, 2.  That I have very little patience, am intolerant and somewhat selfish with my time and 3. My Grandmother, while essentially blind and mostly deaf, hears, feels and sees everything, especially my impatience and frustration with her.  It’s familiar and heartbreaking.  I feel like I’m failing in my role.  I want her to be 20 years younger.  I want…

Relevance.  That word now haunts me.  She wants to help, to be needed and tries hard to contribute, but what is easy for us is nearly impossible for her, which again adds to her already mounting level of frustration.  Conversations are challenging and focus mostly on the past. The world seems to have left her behind.  Any suggestion that she could see 100 is immediately rebuffed.

Frustration.  She is keenly aware of her growing limitations and becomes agitated  when her sight or hearing denies her a good book or being part of a conversation.  She feels isolated and without options. Is this my Mothers fate?  Is this mine?

What is it to grow older?  It almost seems cruel when the body breaks down before the mind.  Alzheimer’s at least has the courtesy to deny its victims of their self awareness.  Neither condition is fair and I have nothing positive to offer in opinion. They are robbers in the night.

The “plan” seems more the exception than the rule.  We’re destined to break our children’s hearts by providing them with a front-row seat to our eventual physical and mental decline.

I have Parkinson’s disease and am descended from a line of relatives who often live into their 90’s.  With this combination, I am afraid of the burden that I may bring to my children.  I need to be relevant, to be needed, to leave before I become a burden.  My family history suggests that this is unlikely.  I’m afraid to age…Im afraid to linger.

What is it to grow older?  It is…

 

 

 

 

Traveling Immortality #Travel

Some people just never step foot off the porch. They dream of faraway places but for whatever reason, mostly cost, it never happens and well, they die, their wanderlust unfulfilled. No traveling legacy here. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that in the past you could inexpensively mail your child through the US Postal Service by placing […]

via Traveling Immortality! The USPS Has Your…Everything? — Travelinggump.com, Using Points

Another Kind Of Story

Welcome to my second blog.  My first, Travelinggump.com, is where I write about my passion for travel.  But what about everything else? That’s where Thesunflowermuse.com comes in.

This is my “overflow”, non-travel, anything goes Blog.

So with that informative introduction,  it begins…

(“it” being World Domination or something similiarly bold, I mean, go big or go home, right?)