It has been extremely cold here in Virginia over the past few weeks, which is abnormal for us. Snow and ice pelted the area over the weekend, leaving us to slip and slide on highways and sidewalks. I fell victim to a patch of black ice Tuesday night which landed me in a knee brace. I was over visiting my neighbor who lives on a slight hill. As I was leaving, I gracefully landed on my knee and proceeded to slide on my ” behind” down the driveway. The neighbors were concerned, yelling from the doorway, asking if I was “hurt”. My pride kicked in, and of course I laughed it off, stumbling home to discover a quickly bruising and swelling knee. By the time I got into bed, the pain was unbearable; movement was my worst enemy. The next morning, I could not bear weight at all.
Here is the problem. All of my life, I have been athletic,independent,and more than self sustaining. Asking for help or assistance is out of the question for me. If I can not do it myself, it will not be done. Hmmm, this posed a real problem for me as I sat on the edge of my bed, wondering how to get to the bathroom, or how to even get out of the bed. Hmmm. I tried the bunny hop, the kangaroo hop, and the lame- leg-drag. I was not making progress quickly enough for my ever demanding, over-forty bladder. I was in a situation.
Aging is not a happy place for me. I miss being able to do so many things that use to be a cake walk. There was a time that I could slam a tennis ball across the court at a startling 100 mph, placing it directly at my opponents feet. I could scurry across the court faster than the blink of an eye, rushing the net at the speed of lightning. I could hike mountain slopes with ease. I could swim like a fish for hours. I skied the diamond level slopes; 1100 ft. vertical drops were a breeze. Those days are long gone, faint memories. Standing there in my bedroom, leaning against the wall, staring at the bathroom door which presented itself like an oasis in the desert, I knew I had to make a phone call. I needed help. I needed someone to come over and help me.
You know, I think it must be so difficult for our residents in long-term care facilities to accept their current situation. In my facility, I have men and women who have accomplished so much in their lives. One decorated former Marine was at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, watching the US flag as it was raised. Another resident was a skilled helicopter pilot during WW 11. Another was a high powered executive for a globally known retailer. Another served for the NBC network as a producer. Mrs. B. was a runway model for Chanel. Mr.K. was a dairy farmer for 52 years. Mrs. L. was a horse trainer…..Mrs.L. was the mother of four children, yet took in 31 foster children over the course of her time as a foster parent. Dr M. was the town’s only OB/GYN, delivering 8500 babies….. Each life tells a story, filled with dreams chased and fulfilled. Now, each resident sits in the dining room, waiting for the meal to come out of the kitchen. Some can no longer remember how to use the utensils, others can not understand what is happening around them. For the higher functioning residents, some realize their current state of mind, and know they are slowing declining as each day passes. Aging is a process. I personally do not find it a kind process at all. But I have also learned that regardless of the where we are in the aging process, life continues on, despite our attitude about it. As we age and body becomes more demanding and less forgiving, we must still remember that we can make a difference in the lives of others.
I’m sure you are wondering how my story ended, with my injured knee and bursting bladder. Well, I called my best friend, who raced over and helped me to the bathroom, helped me get dressed, packed my lunch, gave me a knee brace and drove me to work and provided me with a CANE to help me get about. My staff teased me unmercifully about the cane, calling me well-meaning-joking names, such as “old lady” and making AARP jokes. They had no idea of how much of a struggle my morning had been. They did not know how humbling it was to ask, and to accept it.
But you know what? I learned something from all of this. Aging is okay. I am okay. I still have much to offer society and contributions to make to the world. I may never be as quick on the tennis court, or swim the English Channel, but I can find joy and happiness in other things. I think I will adopt the thinking of Satchel Paige (1906-1982). He asked….
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” Age is a number…..living each day to its fullest is a priority. What we contribute to this world…..is ageles.