I spent the weekend watching my two and a half year old niece while my brother and sister-in-law were in London. I admit I came with a bit of trepidation, not knowing how my niece would take to me, since we have not spent much time together, as I live in a different city. But she had been well prepared by her mother and started jumping on the bed with excitement when I arrived. She turned out to be delightful, smart and talkative, easy to manage, and happy—what more could you ask for?
On Saturday morning trying to get her into her car seat I leaned in a funny angle, because there was an enormous pumpkin in the seat next to her car seat of her mom’s car-true story-and felt my back go out. I immediately took Advil and began to ice my back throughout the day. I managed to avoid any further breakdown on Saturday. Then Sunday, leaning over to diaper her, I felt my back began to go into spasm. It has gone downhill from there. I barely slept last night because the pain kept waking me up.
I think this is what old age must be like. My niece and I spent the morning with my aunt, who is in an assisted living facility—one of the nicest in the area. But my aunt is barely able to walk more than a few feet without tiring and the walk to the dining room and back is all she can manage on a good day.
My aunt, tried to help my niece put her socks back on, with her hand ruined from arthritis and Post Polio Syndrome, she couldn’t accomplish the task. It was painful to watch as she struggled for 10 minutes with the socks before giving up.
My aunt has told me many times that she is ready to die. She feels like she is in prison, and I understand how she can feel that way. Sadly her mind works well on most days but she is trapped in a body that will no longer function. She must be bathed and dressed by strangers. She is unsteady on her feet and afraid of falling. She says she wants to plan her getaway but there is nowhere to run. Not one to make friends, and already sure she was being watched and stolen from long before coming to the assisted living, it has only gotten worse in the past few months.
My niece and I also had two dinners with my parents, both in their mid-80s. My father will be 86 on his next birthday, and although he exercises daily and tries to eat healthy, his age is showing. My mother, who is in better shape, (but don’t tell my father that) can still drive at night and they both lead a very active lifestyle.
After spending a delightful weekend with my niece, I drive home in pain, barely able to stand up straight. I’m not sure if I should even go into work today or just head directly to the Chiropractor. I have not felt this much physical pain in a very long time and it is debilitating. When I see the physical challenges my parents are going through and how they fight each day to continue to be in the world and I see my own temporary physical challenges, it makes me think.
What life do I have to look forward to as I age? Will I get to the point, like my aunt, where she is “ready to go” as she puts it. Or will I be a fighter like my parents, who are in much better shape than my aunt and have a good quality of life. I don’t know. The long decline of old age does not appeal to me. Doing it alone also does not appeal to me. When I was still with my wife, I thought for many years that we would take care of one another as we aged. Now that we have separated and I have come out as gay I wonder what my life will be.
My hope is to be more like my parents and lead an active and engaged life for as long as I can. Having come out so late in life, I want to experience all aspects of the gay world while I can. I want my body to be in good shape for as long as it can so I can maintain a high quality of life.
And so I drive home with the seat heater on hoping it will give my back some relief.