Will You Still Love Me When I’m 64?

I had a birthday this week. I’m 64. Every time I say or think 64, that Beatles song cranks up in my head. I wonder if that’ll happen for the whole year.

When my dad was 64, he lived in a nursing home. He was an alcoholic and an insulin-dependent diabetic who fell, broke his hip and went through DT’s in the hospital which caused wildly unstable blood sugar. So instead of surgery, he spent 6 weeks in traction in the hospital. He had a stroke  while in traction and never went back home. He spent the next 7 years in a wheelchair in nursing homes, slowly deteriorating mentally until there were no shreds left of the dynamic salesman he had been. He was 69 when he died after another srroke.

When my mother was 64, she lived alone, visited my dad every day and barely ate. I think she was anorexic most of  my life. (Thank you, Jackie Kennedy.) She fell while having a stoke, broke a hip and ended up in the same nursing home as my father. She was there, using a wheelchair, for 3 years. He died first.  She eventually stopped eating completely and died a few months after dad at barely 70.

I had pneumonia a few weeks ago. I complained to one of my daughters that I had no appetite and no energy. She told me I had to eat so I didn’t end up a frail old lady like Grandma.

I want to make a sign to hang in my office–the word FRAIL in big black letters circled in red with a diagonal line through the word FRAIL.

I stopped drinking years ago because I didn’t want to turn into my dad. He was an unhappy man who emotionally abused my mother. I’m not like that.

Right before I got sick, I made an appointment with a trainer to begin to recapture some of the strength I’ve lost during the last 2 1/2 years of one surgery after another. I am embarrassed by my lack of fitness, no matter how many times I tell myself I’ve done the best I could.

I’ve read Brene Brown books about shame and resilience. I’m still ashamed. (If you haven’t read her, you might try one from the library. Or listen to her TED talk. You won’t be sorry.)

I hate the idea of being seen as weak or incompetent. I know I can be emotionally strong and resilient. I will try to tap into that strength to have the will to patiently and kindly build my physical strength. I wish I thought it would be fun. I do think it is necessary. I don’t want to be frail like my mom.

A friend shared this poem with me recently. It’s by Jan Richardson from a book called Circle of Grace.

Blessing of the Body

This blessing takes

one look at you

and all it can say is

holy.

Holy hands.

Holy face.

Holy feet.

Holy everything

in between

 

Holy even in pain.

Holy even when weary.

In brokenness, holy.

In shame, holy still.

Holy in delight.

Holy in distress.

Holy when being born.

Holy when we lay it down

at the hour of our death.

 

So, friend,

open your eyes

(holy eyes).

For one moment

see what this blessing sees,

this blessing that knows

how you have been formed

and knit together

in wonder and

in love.

 

Welcome this blessing

that folds its hands

in prayer

when it meets you;

receive this blessing

that wants to kneel

in reverence

before you—

you who are

temple,

sanctuary,

home for God

in this world.

Published in: on March 18, 2016 at 10:38 am  Comments (2)  
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Sigh.

If you ask the retired man I live with how I am, he’s likely to answer, “Mean as a snake.” And you, most likely, will laugh, thinking he’s just being cute.  But he tells the truth, at least a partial truth.

I have a wicked streak in my personality that not everyone gets to see or hear.  Sometimes it comes out as sarcastic comments under my breath during a meeting or workshop.  Sometimes it’s a look exchanged with a friend who knows which person gets under my skin anytime she or he speaks.  Sometimes I just sigh.  I sigh a lot in October.

A week or so ago, my WHOLE daily newspaper was pink. Even the comics and the horoscopes.  I sighed, several times.

A few days later, I walked through the den while the retired man I live with was watching a pro football game.  Pink tights and pink Nike cleats with tight white football pants is not a good look for a beefy offensive lineman.  Or anyone else, probably.  I sighed.

My mother-in-law died of breast cancer, as did 2 of her sisters.  My sister-in-law lives with that genetic legacy.  So do my 2 daughters.  One of their friends had a preventative double mastectomy in her 30’s because of her family history.  I have friends who are breast cancer survivors.

I’m jealous of the Pink for Breast Cancer marketing juggernaut.  Who turned my newspaper pink?  And who talked football players into wearing hot pink tights?

Most families have faced some kind of cancer.

My brother had melanoma twice and died of metastatic cancer of unknown origin.  He had it everywhere and chose not to have treatment and go ahead and die swiftly a year ago.

My mother had throat cancer.  After radiation that killed her salivary glands, she ended up with no ability to taste food and lost all her teeth.

I am a cancer survivor.  I know what that means and how it feels. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Surgery removed one malignant lymph node and another disappeared (??).  My cancer has been in remission since.  I try to forget that it could come back.

My newspaper printed an article recently by Pat Trotta, a local breast cancer survivor.  Here is an excerpt:

Recovery [after her mastectomy on October 1, 2012] was swift and painless, with my biggest problem being cabin fever. As soon as my surgeon gave me the OK to get out of the house, I just put the bulb of my drain tube in the pocket of my jeans and did what most women would do: I went shopping. I was thrilled at the prospect of a little retail therapy so I could quit thinking about the darn cancer.

My first stop was my favorite home improvement store, where the first thing I saw was a display of Pink Ribbon door knobs. My second stop was my favorite office supply store, where I was bowled over by a huge display that ranged from “Pink Ribbon Uni-Ball Gel Pens” to a pink-handled No. 8 scissors that claimed to “raise awareness about breast cancer.”

I was shopping to forget my breast cancer, but instead there were reminders everywhere I looked. I felt like I was in a frantic recurring nightmare, running from store to store, with more pink items ready to attack me behind the door of every retail establishment.

I had to get away from all this pink! I decided to watch a football game, surely a no-pink haven. Wrong! I thought I was having hallucinations when I saw NFL cheerleaders with pink pom-poms and football players with pink cleats. Apparently it has become politically incorrect to ignore pink in October. Employers are forcing their employees to wear pink shirts for a month.

This has gone too far…

I did some research and found that there are 48 colors and color combinations of “awareness ribbons” representing 221 types of cancer. So what about the other 220 diseases? What do their ribbons look like?

My solution is to start referring to October as “Cancer Awareness Month” and include all types of cancers. I actually feel selfish that all the focus and attention is on my type of cancer.

As retailers consider Pinktober for next year, my wish is that these displays would include products in all colors, reflecting all types of cancer.

One of my daughters started making tie-dye shirts last week.  I’m going to ask her to make all of us October shirts using these cancer awareness colors (the ones that have affected our family): Pink (breast), Dark blue (colon), White (lung), Lime (lymphoma), Black (melanoma), Burgundy (head/neck), and Plum (for caregivers).

What colors will you use?

 

 

 

 

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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