Aging is difficult for my dad. His chin quivered as he looked at me and said, “It’s like I woke up one day and got old.” He was telling me about a recent fall he’d taken during our first 2014 snowstorm in January. Though nothing was broken, as proven by an urgent care X-ray, he was still immobilized for days, and stiff and sore for weeks.
This isn’t the first time dad has talked to me about ailments or how something has changed, like his strength, or his memory. Because the list of physical nuisances has grown, it’s now necessary for me to accompany him to his doctor appointments—just to listen and stay informed about his health. It’s a really crappy milestone to rack up and a sad reminder of mortality.
I feel for Dad as he struggles with his growing physical limitations. He doesn’t appear to accept very well that he’s not able to do things like yard work, cut down trees, walk long distances, or change the oil in his car. He struggles with his memory, stays in bed some days, and backs out of family outings because he’s often very tired. He’s frustrated that he isn’t who he used to be physically. And he’s grieving the loss of his abilities.
For as much as I sympathize with Dad, and wonder why he doesn’t just understand and accept that he’s not able to physically work as he once did—and as much as I like to think I’m not like him—I’m not unlike him.
A few months ago, I would’ve told you that I’m taking middle age pretty well and don’t notice or have that many mental or physical changes due to age.
But I have this pair of glasses in my purse . . . that I didn’t wear for a year, even though I needed them. To get right to the point: wearing them meant that I couldn’t control some changes, I could only manage them. Wearing the glasses meant that I was getting older. That parts of me were failing.
Though it’s hard to admit, I’m like Dad—I don’t accept the indications of my age very well either.
My eyes have been bad for years, but I try not to wear glasses very often (though I sometimes literally can’t read).
There are more grey hairs to cover up.
My back is finicky a little more than it used to be.
I can be forgetful and absent-minded.
And then there’s the wrinkles.
And the saggy skin.*
*Believe me, this is not an exhaustive list!
I don’t mean that I’m going to give up on managing the inevitable effects of the aging process by not taking care of myself and allowing my body to stagnate. Rather, I hope to understand and adapt to the growing list of changes and manage them accordingly through exercise, refraining from overeating, taking care of my skin and teeth, and staying on top of my yearly health exams. Additionally, I hope to mentally manage these changes through a positive mindset—thinking the best of myself and treating myself well.
And when the time comes, and I know it will, when taking care of myself no longer holds back the raging tide of age. I hope to slip into its flow peacefully, with grace.
What are you resisting? What makes aging so difficult to embrace?
©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.