I heard somewhere that by the time we reach our thirties, our bodies have begun an inevitable decline- the rate of our decay would be determined by an accumulation of life choices and genetic lotteries. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.2, which means that we will spend more than half of our lives fighting a losing battle.
Well, okay, I am putting quite a negative spin on the idea of living by emphasizing on the length of our decay. Needless to say we will die, but simply because we are in decline doesn’t mean we cannot live, right? I can’t even imagine all the things we can accomplish in those forty some years. One of my best friend’s dad is well into his fifties, but that is not stopping him from completing multiple Iron Man Triathlons a year. An alumnus I met had his first kids in his forties, found the love of his live in his fifties, and started a successful smart phone app company in the first year of his sixties. My god-father described old age as a point in your life where time slows to a comfortable pace and your mind is free from consuming thoughts of job security, sexual desire, etc. Given all the experiences I have managed to pack into the first twenty years of my life, the next sixty should be ridiculous. I personally could not wait… at least, that is what I thought until five years ago.
In 2007, my grandmother, who had aged so beautifully and gracefully for 91 years, had a stroke and began a mental and physical decline that was so decisive and rapid, it was like life got impatient with my grandmother and pressed the fast-forward button. For the next five years, I watched old age ravenously grip my grandmother as I took care of a woman who had raised me and taught me everything I know. Along with physical decline, which contradicted her intense independent nature, her mental ability deteriorated to a foggy state and often resembled a broken record. Having known so well the woman my grandmother used to be, it became emotionally frustrating and painful to take care of this broken woman I love so dearly.
My fond anticipation of my life in old age has died. I now fear it. I am extremely afraid to lose my mental lucidity or become so physically incapable, I am forcibly dependent on others.
In the end, however, despite my new fear and hatred for old age, I still love my grandmother. I will do my very best to take care of her, and make the remaining years we have with each other as meaningful as possible. This blog will be an un-chronological journal of those experiences. It will contain rants, advice, amusing stories, and fond memories. In the end, I believe this will be a record of memories I can look back upon and I hope this can also be a humble resource for anyone else taking care of their senior loved ones suffering from dementia.*
Honestly, I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know how much longer she will be around. I don’t know how much of her is still in there. I don’t even know if anything I am doing is having any remote effect on her. I just know I love her and I want to spend the next couple years making up for the time I missed while I was away at college.
Oh, and the last thing I know for sure is today, our combined age is 118.
*Given my lack of experience and the personal specificity of these accounts, you should take any advice I give with a grain a salt. If you don’t agree with what I do or what I say, I implore you to comment so that others may see it.