The other day I was filling in one of those surveys from the grocery store. You know the kind where you can win a $1000 gift card, just by answering some basic questions about customer service, store cleanliness etc.
As I was completing it online, I realized that I was now in the 50s age group, so needed to check that box instead of the 40s one. It still feels strange to me that I am in my 50s. I know I am 53, but for the most part I feel so much younger and find it very hard to identify being this age.
The period from age 40 to now is almost a blur. In some ways that is a good thing, as the last few years have been very challenging, and tested my inner strength in more ways than I can count.
I think many people feel the way I do. Not sure I am unusual in that, yet it is odd to really feel as if you are still the same, but everything else has changed and evolved. Almost like you are standing next to a carousel, watching it spin around while you stand motionless.
The growth of our careers, our relationships and our children are oftentimes an indicator of how quickly life is moving. What came as a surprise to me, was that the same passage of time would also be a reflected in the rapid decline of my parents’ health.
Over the years, I have frequently discussed that my parents were always very youthful, both physically and in their outlook on life. Logically I knew they would get older, and these things would inevitably change. What I was not prepared for, was the speed at which that happened.
My dad still rode his bike around town well into his mid-70s, but once Alzheimer’s grabbed ahold, and his memory and cognitive functioning were severely impacted, he became a different person.
When he moved into the retirement home in April 2017, he was using a cane, which quickly progressed to a walker, as his balance was affected by this disease. After a terrible fall in November 2017, and a 5 week stay in the hospital, he returned in a wheelchair, and never walked again.
It was like fast-forwarding a movie. One day he was the same old dad, cracking jokes, cursing at other drivers, and the next a thin, frail old man who had aged in the blink of an eye. Watching this happen right in front of me was completely heart-breaking, and there was not a thing I could do about it.
My mother was less obvious in her decline, there were more subtle changes in the beginning, that I simply chalked up to aging. Looking back these were clear red flags something was happening, but I did not realize it at the time.
The speed at which she has deteriorated has been incredibly fast. One minute she was still driving, living independently and happy in her life. The next she was diagnosed with aphasia (speech-loss) and vascular dementia, which the doctor attributed to a series of mini-strokes.
When you are helping one parent, the thought that the other is also not doing well is unimaginable, and yet in my case it happened. All in less than three years.
Throw into the mix some personal health issues, the end of my marriage, career challenges, parenting a high support autistic child, and trying to rediscover who I am as a single person. Sometimes I wonder how I’ve managed to get through it all, but I have. It has been one hell of an emotional rollercoaster, and now I’m ready to enjoy a little ride in the slow lane.