Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Trouble with Aging

I saw my brother today - my eldest brother. He turned 61 this summer, and I've never seen him this thin - not since high school. I don't know if there is something really wrong in his body somewhere, like cancer (which took out most of our relatives), or if this is just something that happens in our family when we age.

Our mother got thinner as she moved into her sixties and seventies, too. Dad became very frail before he died, but he had lung cancer. It worries me that my brother is smoking again, after being off of nicotine for many years, but there is nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to spend the little bit of time I get with him here and there just nagging him about something. I just wanted to have a nice visit with him. We've had difficulty staying in touch lately because the lady he's renting a room from turned off his cell phone and hasn't been giving him the messages I've left for him. So my ex-husband got L a phone on his plan; Sean and I delivered that phone to him today. He was very happy to get it. Now maybe I can talk to him more frequently.

Our baby sister may also be sick with leukemia. She has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis already, but her white cell count has been quite high and her red blood cells are way down. She has her appointment with the oncologist this week and will have another battery of tests. I don't know what I'll do if she needs a bone marrow biopsy. When I was living closer, I had told her I would be there. Now that will be next to impossible, but I hate the thought of her going through it without me there. She had a part-time job to supplement her meager income, but she had to quit that due to her health. After the third trip to the ER, it was clear she couldn't go on working at anything. I'd appreciate it if you keep my sister in your thoughts and prayers - same for my brother.

That's the problem with aging. There are five of us siblings remaining. My mom's first baby died in the hospital at less than 3 days old. L was the next child, then my sister G (who lives in TX and doesn't talk to any of us anymore), my brother T (who lives in Kansas), me, and my little sister P. My brother L and I have often talked about our family history, our proliferation of autoimmune illnesses, his frail health, and (and this is morbid) which one of us might be next. You can't really know anything like that. Would anyone have predicted Stephanie's death? Would anyone have guessed that she would be gone at age twenty-five.

There is nothing to be done about any of it, of course, except to try to stay healthy. When I saw my doctor the other day, I thanked him for always having been the best doctor. He laughed it off and said, "What do I do? Order labs?" He's a sweet man from India. Very nice, soft-spoken, conscientious. While he was home visiting his family, he had his colleague take over my file and adjust my meds when my labs came back. I can count on him.

My brother, however, depends on the VA. My sister depends on Medicare doctors. I worry about them. But the thing I can do - and I know this - is to love them. I can't change their circumstances. I can't change their doctors. I can control my healthcare, but not theirs. I can't do anything but love them and pray that we all get to hang around until we're crotchety old people.

Both of them will be coming to rent rooms from me in the coming year. As soon as Paul and I are done with some renovations and debt payoffs, he'll be getting a place and I'll be buying this one from him. That means I'll be "stuck" in Frederick at least until the economy turns around, but that's not so bad. I know people here. I went to school here. I have my son, and I'll have my siblings. Will it always be perfect? No. We know from history that we'll step on each others' toes sometimes, but we'll be looking out for one another. We'll enjoy meals together, holidays, funny movies. If I find the love of my life out there somewhere, we'll see what happens then. I might turn around and rent the whole townhouse out to my sibs and live elsewhere. I don't know. Only God knows what is in store.

What I can do is hang on, keeping taking one day at a time, and gradually overcome my sadness. I need to keep looking for that silver lining and keep believing that things will grow brighter.

If there is one thing I learned in recovery, it's that I don't have control over anything. I have to give to God what belongs to God. When I try to manage things myself, I just mess up. I'll just be here in the moment, trying to live it to the fullest. I wish you could see me, sitting here next to my son as he plays an online game, cuddling with the bulldogs, watching "Holmes on Homes" on HGTV. It's cozy, comfortable, and loving here. Peaceful. I am making jokes again, not afraid that a joke will turn into a fight. I'm laughing again. I'm me again.

Peace - D


Mental P Mama said...

No, we have no control. My family, too, is rife with autoimmune diseases. My mother's mantle cell lymphoma took her out in less than three years. After fighting lupus and Ad.. I wonder if there is any genetic research $$ for your sure sound like a study group--worthy of excellent care. What you really need to do is take care of yourself. But you know that already.....

Syd said...

I have no family left with both parents gone, no siblings. I have my wife and her aging parents. I would like to have a large family to be there for. But I am grateful for the little family that I have remaining.

Glad that you are joking again. Life is better with humor.

Akelamalu said...

We all 'go' when our time is up so there's no use fretting about it in my opinion. My philosophy is to live life to the full and enjoy every minute whilst loving and caring for your family and friends. I'll keep you and your siblings in my prayers. x

Daryl said...

YES!!!!!!!! Be good to yourself, the rest will follow!

Maggie May said...

What a good idea having your siblings rent your house. Hope it works out. Could be a really good thing.
It is just as well we don't know what is in store for us healthwise.
I hate to be out of control of anything but I felt really out of control while I was first diagnosed and having chemo. I guess we have to live from day to day and make the most of each day.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

the walking man said...

The trouble with aging is everyone else is doing it at the same time and the field is too crowded to have enough room to advance past a certain point. Fuck it, live while you have breath, know that what God has done once in raising a human from the dead he can do ten trillion times ten trillion, and as you are seeing just simply come to peace.

You have a plan it will pull itself together somehow and then you go on.

Be Well