This is a photo of Bill’s grandfather, Grandpa Ed, at the Christmas celebration at our house in 2000. He used to read the story of Christ’s birth straight from the bible every year with all of the kids, young and old, gathered around him.
Grandpa hasn’t done that in several years now. His health has deteriorated at an alarming rate for the last few years. He’s been wheelchair-bound for quite some time, and he’s been in and out of the hospital a lot. A couple of months ago, when we took lunch to the grandparents’ house for a visit, he wasn’t looking well at all, and wasn’t really “there”. And then, last week, he fell and broke his leg in three places. He made it through emergency surgery, spent a few days in the hospital, and was moved to a facility for recovery and therapy. His first day there, he aspirated and had to be moved immediately back to ICU. He was placed on a ventilator and had to be resuscitated several times.
We were all told not to expect miracles, and that he had a 20% chance for surviving and getting well enough to move back to the recovery center, but that he’ll never live at home again. We kept expecting “the” call, all throughout the week, and mentally prepared ourselves.
However, the latest update from Bill’s sister is that Grandpa is off the ventilator, and is talking a little. We’re going up to the hospital tonight to visit him. Your thoughts and prayers for his comfort and well-being, and that of our dear Grandmother Claudine who is frantic with worry, would be greatly appreciated.
This brings me to talk about something that’s been on my mind, lately – quality of life. I think we all hope that we go out in a peaceful, or at least painless way, far into our elder years. The best I hope for is to die on my 101st birthday, while having sex with my 111 year old husband (hi, Bill) who goes out at the same time. (Oh, the poor kids, if they find us like that!) I would hope that I remain healthy all throughout my twilight years, though I’m only 36 now and sometimes I creak when I get out of bed. Still, I can handle a certain amount of discomfort as long as I’m mobile, of sound mind, and can still eat whatever I want.
I guess there are certain things I could handle, and certain things I could not. Of course, I wouldn’t know unless I experienced these things, but what if I go blind? Lose my hearing? What if I can’t walk, can’t feed myself, have to pee in a bag? What if I’m in and out of the hospital constantly? What if my spouse is home-bound because I can’t DO anything? What if he starts to resent the way I’ve hampered his quality of life? What if I break a bone if I so much as bump a piece of furniture? What if the only thing left for me is to sit and sit, and watch television? What if I start forgetting who my loved ones are, who I am? If it gets bad enough, will I have the courage to face my mortality in a dignified way? Will I be able to convince my loved ones to let me go, to not take extreme measures that force me to linger when I don’t want to?
There are a great deal of things to be afraid of, regarding getting old. We all know that no one gets out alive, so what should we hoping for as we approach the end? To just have more good memories than bad? A smaller amount of regrets than we were expecting? The best health possible right up to the end, but barring that, just one more day of consciousness? To not be alone?
That last one scares me the most.