Wednesday, November 21, 2007

back to Indiana

Rain is falling but it’s warm out – one of several paradoxes we’re living right now. I’m sitting on the front porch of Jason’s grandparents’ in Indiana, both of whom are having recurring health issues, expected at 88. The family living close-by is stretched very thin at the moment, so we're here for a week or two to hang out, see to their medications and daily activities, rush them to the emergency room, etc. etc.

Their home, once so restful, is now a breeding ground for stress (theirs, and hence, ours). When the meds have worn off, we are the enemy, suspected of vague ill intentions and wished gone. Jason suddenly has to be assertive toward his grandfather, always a proud and respected man, about a number of private matters. There are mental matches to be wrestled from dawn to dusk. Now, it’s truly an honor to care for family two generations older, and we are fortunate to have the flexibility for it, but honesty says it requires agility of mind to switch between a jolly story of grandma’s parents waltzing across the living room floor to the Victrola, to having to explain the reason their little town has changed so incredulously is that we’re actually driving through Indianapolis!

I’m quite fascinated with the brain. Comparing the emotions and actions of elderly folks who have dementia and children is common because it’s so accurate, but caring for the two is not so similar. I suppose you’ve got to let everybody have as much independence as is healthy for them, but it’s easy to tell a kid you’ve had enough of their sassy mouth. Not so much with Grandma.

And then there are issues of fakery. Playing, pretending, experimenting – they’re part of childhood, how kids figure out life and roles, and we let ‘em go at it, right? Fine and good. But toward the end of life, when you’re no longer capable of cooking or paying bills, is it fair to be given a fake checkbook or dulled crocheting tools that don’t actually produce anything because you’ve injured yourself one too many times? At least you still feel useful, are still taking part in soothing routines. Sure, your world is being created for you, but to what degree is it always that way for us, adulthood included?

No comments: