When I was in Geriatrics class in medical school, we were put through an exercise where we were “made” either deaf, blind, or arthritic to experience the hardships that the elderly live through on a day-to-day basis. I was made blind. After gobs of cotton, a sleeping mask, and a large roll of gauze were placed over my eyes, there was nothing but black. At the time, before my eye surgery, I was legally blind without my glasses; this was different. There was nothing. No light, no color, no blurry images. There was simply nothing. The experience was profoundly isolating. I found that with the loss of sight, I drew further and further into myself so that by the end of conversation time with my friends I was not participating at all (and these were good friends who knew me intimately). I felt I was dissolving into myself; because I couldn't see, my senses were focused on what I knew – my body, my thoughts, my heartbeat, the way the wheelchair that I was sitting in felt. I felt deeply alone.
My grandfather just entered his 90's. His vision is failing, he is deaf without his hearing aids. He has trouble walking without his walker. He lost his wife many years ago; the wife he celebrated 50+ years with. He lives in a beautiful assisted living facility where the therapists keep him busy. The last time I saw him, though, I saw it. He has turned inward. He rarely talks, and sometimes a look of frustration rankles his brow. When he does talk, he doesn't say much, and then he descends back into his thoughts. He was told years ago that he didn't have long to live as he has an inoperable tumor; he has outlived the estimates, and then some.
As we were driving back to our hotel, I listened to my parents talking about the appropriate colors to paint the walls in the house to make it more sell-able. The house that my dad grew up in and my grandparents spent their entire life in. I listened to talk of headstones and burial plots for the man that we had just left. I'd heard this talk before with my other grandparents, they were even part of it, but it was different listening to these words about the only grandparent I have left. He's still here, and yet it's all so final.
With William, I am watching a life emerge. Everything is an adventure, from learning what a giraffe was as we watched “The Lion King” to picking flowers, from going to the library with All Those Books to even going potty (always finished off with a big “Woo Hoo” and clapping). He has boundless energy, when he isn't talking about something he is dancing and making up songs. He seems, at times, ready to burst, so enthusiastic is his approach to life. Everything is external. You rarely have to guess what he is thinking or feeling. He is always ready for the next step.
I am entering my middle ages. I am starting to feel stiff in places that shouldn't be stiff. I get tired much too easily. I still have a great desire to learn, but it is now punctuated with times of silence. I can't imagine my life without Tim, but I enjoy my time without him – still, I know that he will be coming home to me when he leaves. We will be coming back together. Our older children are starting to think about life after High School and in the big world. Kendall will be 18 in two weeks. My vision is getting worse. I look in the mirror and there is a middle aged woman there. Age has laid its hand on me.
To everything there is a season. Life and death, beginnings and ends. Alphas and Omegas. George Bernard Shaw said "Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive yourself." I believe my grandfather has done this quite well.