She comes out from the bathroom after her nap and says: “Feels like I’m getting…”
There is this impossibly long pause. My mind fills with sentence completers that I have trained my mouth not to say: Out of breath? Sick? Closer to death? She has said each one of those to us before.
She picks her glasses up from the table and puts them on. I have stopped everything I was doing and I watch her, waiting. This is a certain kind of hell, especially for a person with ADD.
“Slower and slower.” I’m both relieved and disheartened. I’m glad it wasn’t any of the other things but now I know it’s something entirely frustrating that I can’t change. We talk about it for a moment – me trying to abate her frustration and cause her to go easy on her 98 year old self and she says: “It’s only that…you feel so tired.”
I don’t understand why she’s reaching for her apron, folding it, and putting it on the back of the kitchen chair that is by the window. I can see she is telling the truth and she is certainly physically tired today. Her eyes stay shut for too long, her breathing is slightly heavy. So why is she beginning her daily exercises?!?!? She puts her apron on the back of the wooden chair as comfort for her hands as she competes exercises she got as part of physical therapy a long time ago after a hospital stay. These are an assortment of leg lifts where she holds the back of the chair for balance. She does these everyday.
I want to jump all over her. Ask why if she’s feeling less than usual is she going to do her exercises?!?! I decide against both admonishment and trying to control her choices as if she were a child. But I watch her carefully. She doesn’t count to ten in Polish joyfully as she usually does and she has to take a few pauses which deviate from the normal script. It seems like things will have to be at heightened observation for a while. I want to say I don’t understand why she pushes herself this way, but I know this is why she is still here at 98, why she is still ambulatory, maybe even why she is still so mentally capable. She’s a “no excuses” kind of woman!
I decided that along with allowing her to make her own choices, I would use cheer to at least raise her spirits since I can change very very little about her health. We talked for a while and then she read February’s passages. She began laughing halfway through reading. She remembers her father accidentally locking her out and having to sleep out in the hallway all night. I asked her why she didn’t wake someone up and it was as I suspected, she didn’t want to wake her neighbors.
We talked about the layout of her house and the four apartments and how her parents slept in the attic and when she was younger she slept in the kitchen. We talked about Sammy’s party, we laughed, and by the end she wasn’t as down on herself and she seemed much more clear headed than she did when she had just awoken from her nap. Mission accomplished.
Yet, I left her kitchen still on alert, wondering about action plans. How to help her not feel as down about her age, how to help her actually not be as “slow,” how we should watch and for what in case this is a sign of other problems. I stop halfway up the stairs and lean against the railing, knowing what I have to say to myself. There are understandings that need to be met, and held, close, even though they are ugly. She is aging, this is what it is like, there is no cheating death and one day we will have to accept even that. We live in that reality and cherish each moment more because of it.
Today’s Daily Post: