08. February 2008 · Comments Off on The best thing about getting older…. · Categories: General

…is that it beats the alternative. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. And for once, I’m not talking about myself, although I don’t seem to be getting any younger, these days. I’m talking about my dad..

He turned 77 on his birthday last November. He spent his birthday weekend in the hospital, dealing with a heart attack. He had gone to the ER in his small town to get checked out for a suspected urinary tract infection (his regular doc had retired, and he didn’t have a new one yet), and they realized he was in the midst of a heart attack. They kept him over the weekend, and released him early the next week.

But my aunt called me last week. She’s the one who takes care of my dad’s finances, and has full power of attorney to handle whatever needs handled, since my mom passed away. Dad’s doctor says he needs to move out of his split-level house, before the stairs kill him. He doesn’t do stairs well – they trip him up. He had a stroke in 1976, and his right leg has never worked particularly well since then. His answer to the stairs in the house was to go out the back door, take two steps down from the back deck, and walk down the sloping hill to his truck. Until he fell one day, and couldn’t get up. Thankfully, two neighbors saw him and came over to help him to his feet.

He is a stubbornly indpendent man, my father. So we are NOT moving him to assisted living. We are helping him get his house ready to sell, and we’ll help him buy a small single-story in his small town. I’ve rearranged my vacation time to go north and help out. Other than that, I try not to think about it.

My daddy… I have always endowed him with some mythical heroic power, and while he may not have hung the moon, I was always convinced that he could have, if he’d wanted to. In one swift move, he could grab me up and hoist me to his shoulders, assuring I got the best view of the Santa Claus parade as it wound through our neighborhood. We found a domestic rabbit shivering in our garage one winter day, and next day, he built a wood and wire rabbit hutch for it, out of scraps he had, and with no plans to work from. When we built our “dream” house in 1975, he and Mom did the roofing, the siding, the flooring… before his stroke he was all-powerful, and full of genius, if short of patience.

After his 1976 stroke, I closed my eyes to his limitations and encouraged him in his successes. It was easy to do then – I was a teenager, still in high school. Now I’m an adult, and high school is 30 years behind me, this May. Dad is 77, and not as healthy as he used to be. His heart is enlarged, his liver is fatty, and his bad leg drags enough to scare you if you watch him walk, because it looks like he won’t make it across the room if he’s barefoot.

But he’s still around for me to love, and that beats the alternative. Still, I find my eyes tearing up at odd times, and I’m dreading this northern trip on Feb 26, helping him get ready to sell the house my mother died in. I find myself wondering if I’ve really told him enough about how much he means to me. I try to reassure myself that actions speak louder than words, even for someone as vocal as I am, and that driving across the Appalachians in the tag-end of winter declares that I care. But I think I’ll work on sending cards more often, to let him know I’m thinking of him, and that I love him.

And I marvel at how the fact that my dad is growing older can make me feel so much like a very young child.

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