Sonia G. Medeiros hosted this as a guest post on Friday, but due to some glitch on her site, several people told me they couldn’t access it. I’m reposting it today in case you didn’t get to see it Friday:
For some years now, I’ve watched as my mother’s physical and mental health declined. It’s sad to watch that take place in someone you’ve loved all your life, who nurtured and raised you and supported you in your various endeavors through the years.
Actually, Mother’s physical health is excellent, with a couple of exceptions. She’s never had any heart- or vascular-related issues. No cancer. No diabetes. She takes fewer prescriptions than I do. Her only hospital stay since childbirth was a hysterectomy at age 75—and she was back to normal activities in three days.
If it weren’t for her knees, which no longer support her body, and her eyes, which have been practically blinded by macular degeneration, her health would rival that of a 20 year-old. Well, except for her mind, which has wandered out the window somewhere these last few years.
In many ways Mother is following her mother, who died just short of her 98th birthday. She had macular degeneration also, but, unlike Mother, she also had diabetes. A lot of good genes in there, though, with that kind of longevity.
As my sister Barb and I have aged, she with her fibromyalgia and me with my diabetes and cardio-vascular disorders, we have joked about who was going to take care of Mother after we’re both gone. Neither of us expects to attain the age of 95, which Mother has already done. In fact, considering the quality of her life at this point, we’ve agreed that we don’t really want to.
Barb had one very mild heart episode a couple of years ago, but she’s had no ongoing consequences of that. I know the fibromyalgia tires her and makes her feel bad a lot of the time, but her general health has been much better than mine.
Yesterday afternoon, our age was brought home to me—in spades. She had an appointment with her ophthalmologist and discovered that she has begun to develop macular degeneration. After watching both our mother and our maternal grandmother struggle with the gradual loss of vision to this condition, this is scary to both of us.
When you see your parents go through declines in health, it hurts, but you also think that older people are expected to do that. You sort of insulate yourself from it, because you’re so much younger. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel for my mother’s losses of physical and mental ability. It’s just that I can tell myself those things don’t apply to me, because I’m so much younger than she is.
Hearing this report from my sister was a whole new thing, though. No matter how old you get, dear friends, you’ll find yourself thinking “Yeah, but I’m one of the young ones.” You can remember those first days of school. Your first date. Going through high school and college with hardly a care in the world. You really were one of the young ones.
There must be some mistake. Barb is one of the young ones, too. She’s only two years older than I am. These things don’t happen to us. But this one has happened. It’s a reality she has to face and deal with. And I have to deal with the reality that my sister, whom I’ve loved so much through all these years, is staring blindness in the face. Not tomorrow or next year. Dry macular degeneration moves slowly. It will be years before she, like mother, won’t be able to watch TV or read or do crossword puzzles. But you know it’s out there.
And as much as it bothers me to know my sister must deal with this, I have to admit that it’s made even scarier by the thought that I’m next. Hate to make it about me, when Barb is the one with the condition, but I guess I can’t help having the thoughts. With the family history, it would be remarkable if I didn’t develop this myself. Something to look forward to.
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.