If you were an English major in college as I was, you will no doubt remember T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock.” The lines that I always remember are these:
“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.”
It is long poem, and each time I read it, it makes more sense to me as I too am growing old. In having my dad living with us I am acutely aware of how things change. After an exhausting trip to the doctor yesterday, Dad is still recovering.
The things I take for granted; knowing that the nurse will have to take my blood pressure, ask me questions, go through my medications list, and so on—it is agony for me to have my Dad go through this. Each minute saps his energy, and I wish, not for the first time, that there was a faster way to handle all this.
My wonderful PA, knowing that Dad is quite deaf even though he has hearing aids; looks him in the eye and speaks directly to him. She gives him his dignity, and time to speak. She understands how tiring this is for him, and she asks him questions kindly. In this way, they build a rapport that satisfies them both.
We leave, knowing that we will have help with Dad that may make this time in his life easier. I ask him is he is ok with all this, and he says he is. I tell him that he is in charge; that things can be done for him, but not to him. He agrees.
By the time we get home, he is nearly asleep on his feet; those feet which in earlier years could traipse through woods and fields, ski like an angel carving a path down mountains, and dance for hours with my mother.
But this is now, and he is 92 years old. This is the time when we step in to make whatever time he has left good, loving and meaningful. I know that this wonderful and sweet time is precious.
While this is a bittersweet time, I cherish it.