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SLIP SLIDING AWAY
11 February 2006
We had a note from Nancy letting us know that her husband died a couple of weeks ago. He was quite a bit older than Walt and we hadn't seen him in many years. They passed out of our lives when he retired and the family moved out of the country.
Walt tried to find him 2 or 3 years ago when he heard a rumor that they had moved back to this country. He actually did find where they were living and wrote to him. He received a response from Nancy, letting him know that her husband was suffering from Alzheimers and no longer remembered his old friends.
Walt thought often about going to see him anyway, though he knew that he would not be recognized, but he didn't. Nancy had not encouraged his visit and it's probably just as well to remember the friendship they had before he was grabbed by that terrible condition.
As I approach my 63rd birthday I am suddenly aware of the passage of time, that there are more years behind me than ahead of me.
When we were on the winery trip, we visited one winery where the owner, an older man, poured our wine for us. I knew that he had gone to grammar school with a friend of ours but I couldn't relate to "that old guy" as someone who was in my peer group.
It was like when I went to my first Neil Diamond concert and had to realize that I looked like all the rest of the old farts who were shuffling into Arco Arena.
I'm also thinking about the passage of time this week as I talk with Walt's mother each day. She's 92 now and had a fall a couple of weeks ago, fracturing her coccyx. They fixed the fracture and she's relatively pain-free, but she is in a convalescent hospital until they determine that she's ready to move back into her retirement home.
She has deteriorated so much in the past 5 or so years. As her macular degeneration has rendered her all but blind and she has become thinner and thinner she just seems to be sinking into herself. Her skin is so paper thin that all she has to do is bump herself and she develops a bruise.
The thing that has been a wonder about my mother-in-law has always been how bright and alert her mind is. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., and spent so much time in the home of the McLean family, owners of The Washington Post, she grew up with a keen interest in politics and has always followed all the papers and talking heads and has been interested in having lively discussions.
But this time in the convalescent hospital seems to have deadened her perception. Stuck in a hospital bed, unable to figure out the remote control on her TV (since she can't see it), unable to read, having nobody to talk with most of the day (Walt's sister goes to the hospital after she gets off work), she seems to be slipping away a bit.
She keeps asking Walt where we are going to have Thanksgiving dinner. She couldn't remember the name of the town where Tom's wife's family is, though it is nearby and it used to be part of her territory when she was traveling for the Department of Education. She knew that Tom and Laurel had been by to see her "before going to the holiday dinner--I can't remember which one," forgetting that it was the Super Bowl.
I asked her if she had heard from Ned and she said she had, though later in the conversation she told me that Tom was the only person who called her.
She is by no means out of it, but for the first time she is just starting to show her age, mentally, I suspect in large part because of the lack of mental stimulation in the convalescent hospital. She's not as sharp as she's always been and I know she is starting to slip away. I hope that when she gets back into her own place things will be better, but I suspect that when you pass a certain age, there are some things that slip away that just don't come back.
I feel so fortunate that my mother, at 86, is probably more mentally alert than I am, and very definitely in better physical condition. It's difficult to think of her fading away, as I am seeing Walt's mother fading away.
Since this "embed the video" thing is
working so well, if you'd like to see a funny story, watch this one that Steve recorded,
with ventriloquist Jay Johnson (he was on Soap with his dummy, Bob), talking
about Sheri Lewis and Lambchop.
PHOTO OF THE DAY