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I am a retired English teacher and department head, the mother of three, grand mother of three, and have been married to the same man for 42 years. I subscribe to Dr. PM Forni's concept of Civility. I was born in South Philadelphia and grew up in the 'burbs. I love soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, the Phillies, the Eagles, and San Diego. I love being Mom, Aunt Kathy, Nona Kathy, and Teacher. I spend a lot of time in my gardens in the spring and summer, and in the winter I plan what I'm going to plant. I also am an avid reader and photographer.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not Exactly a Christmas Message...


In the poem "My Heart Leaps Up"  Wordsworth says, "And the child is father to the man."  The most popular interpretation of this is that our habits and idiosyncrasies are 'set' within us as children.  I've often thought it has another meaning.

My dad died 13 years ago and at the young age of 74.  As tragic as that was I've come to accept it as a blessing.  He died long before he would have aged, become frail and dependent, and long before our memories of him would have been relegated to those focused on anything other than a strong and vibrant dad.  

For those of us who grieve over lost loved ones, particularly parents, I wonder if their dying before their time might acutually be less painful?  Is it easier than waiting for the inevitable?  Is it easier than watching the strong and caring parents morph into frailty?   Is it easier than dealing with parents on whom we relied on for meeting all things emotional and physical be unable to give either and instead depend on us for both?  I'm not sure.

My mom is still vibrant at 88; walks for an hour and a half each day, sings in a couple of choirs, argues with me about EVERYTHING, plays on the bacci ball team, and in short is doing great, but I know what's coming.  We see it in my father-in-law who is very frail, refuses any kind of assistance, and is oppositional.  "And the child is father of the man," takes on a more literal meaning.

13 comments:

Mage said...

My father died an ugly death at 66, and I never really knew him at all. Mother faded away...but she had a devoted husband number 3 with her. My father in law faded away, but my mother in law was vital til the day she fell and died. I hope my husband follows his mothers path.

Purple Flowers said...

Hi Kathy: This is a very thoughtful post. My Mom at 92 is alive and kicking. She is healthy mentally and physically. My Dad died at the age of 81 of bladder cancer. It was ugly at the end, however, I still remember him as a strong and vibrant Dad. When I consider the "baby boom" population heading into their senior years, how will their children cope with aging parents?
Thank you for the pretty Christmas card.

Linda Reeder said...

Would that we could all lead active, vital lives until the day we don't live.

forsythia said...

My dear father was killed in a plane crash a few days before his 49th birthday. His unexpected death was devastating to Mom and me, but after a time, we were able to take a measure of comfort from two facts: (1) he always said he never wanted to grow old, and (2) he seemed to be losing his battle against alcoholism. We were already apprehensive about his future. Mom (actually my stepmother) lived until age 99. She lived with us her last nine years. She kept it together pretty well, but became increasingly angry, childish and stubborn as dementia took over. My natural mom died at 83 of pancreatic cancer. I had not been close to her since age 5, when my parents divorced. She never had a good word to say about my dad, but we had a chance to say some kind and loving things to each other before she died. Heredity is a funny thing. At the end of her life, I saw how very much like her I was.

Kay said...

My mother is 84 and talks to me all the time about wanting to die in her sleep or suddenly. And yet, she's very healthy and is enjoying traveling and puttering around the house. I told her that she can live for at least another 10 years, but that dying suddenly would be too much of a shock for me.

ruthhullchatlienbooks.com said...

You know, I read an article lately saying that doctors choose differently than non-medical people. They don't seek any measure to prolong life because they know quality of life is more important. I think that's related to the message in your post. Something to think about.

Ginni Davis said...

Wonderful post, Kathy. We lost Mom at age 61 to complications she suffered after being cured of cancer. The treatments left her insides scarred and burned. She lived for 5 years after the "cure". It was devastating for us. Dad on the other hand lived to be 88 but for the last 8 years of his life he suffered with dementia. We watched him become a little child. My siblings and I did most of his care for all but the last year of his life, when he finally had to go to a home so he could be watched 24-7. We cherish the time we had with him but the whole time we all felt so bad for him. If he had realized how he'd become, I don't know if he'd have wanted to go thru that. I guess that's one of the blessings of dementia, the sufferer doesn't realize much of what's going on, so all of the embarrassment we felt on his behalf was just in our minds, not in his. Anyway, his situation made me feel differently about living as long as you can no matter what. Quality is a huge factor…not just quantity.

Retired English Teacher said...

I hear you. This is a wonderful post. My father died at 86 which was quite a long life for him. He really didn't do much the last ten years of his life. I don't want to be like that. My mother is still going strong at 97. She lives alone. I worry about her constantly. She keeps busy. Her mind is sharp. I don't want to live that long if I am not vibrant and surrounded by those I love. I guess we can't always chose how it will be for us, can we? I hope to make the most healthy end of life choices that I can.

Kimberly said...

Watching a loved one suffer is heartbreaking. David's dad always wanted to live to 100, but suffered so for his last 6 months that he was ready when he died just before his 90th birthday. Fortunately, his wife of almost 65 years followed 2 weeks later - I cannot imagine one without the other. Even more heartbreaking, though, are those who suffer and go at a young age. We've just begun the journey of ALS with my exhusband, father of one of my children, your former student. His is the rarest form with even more suffering and lessened lifetime. We are devastated for him! It is so difficult to know in advance and to know the suffering he will endure before he dies. My heart breaks for my daughter, his wife, and his son who will have significantly less time with him than they had anticipated. It is hard to believe this is happening. We will all try to live with the advice I've given my daughter - there will be plenty of time to grieve later. Now is the time to make every second with him count.

cri said...

Dear Kathy, I hope you'll have a great Christmas and a Great 2014! I send 1.000.000. kisses to your mother! I have changed address, I hope you'll receive may postcard very soon. Cristina

Bilbo said...

My mother died at 74 after a long descent through Alzheimer's hell. Dad is now 90 and still reasonably healthy, if frail and confused after the stroke that confined him to a wheelchair. I think that a fairly sudden death, even "before one's time" is better than the long twilight. Sad discussion.

Gilly said...

I so agree with you, Kathy. But I have got to nearly 80, and I can see myself going down physically. I hate it. I long to be hale, hearty and white water rafting at 81!!!

Unhappily, we can't choose when to go.

Brad said...

I quite agree with Ginni - It's the quality of life that's important. I don't want to ever feel warehoused after I can no longer care for myself and I'm afraid that's just how I'd feel. What's the point? Not that I want to go anytime sooner then I need to but I'm quite excited to see what comes next.