Getting old is hard. Getting really old is really hard. And so is watching those you love experience it. I'm only 25 so I'd like to think that I haven't even hit my prime yet but witnessing my 84 year old grandma make it day-to-day can be rough. I thought that I'd take a vacation last week and spend some time up north in Dallas with family to let my husband get some serious work done.
While it was great to see everyone, this trip was very sobering for me. You see, my grandmother was always a woman who helped others, she was always volunteering to help with food pantries, started a clinic for children with no healthcare, on the Salvation Army regional board, etc. She was always so capable. She has slowly stopped participating in these activities because of a degenerative eye disease that has left her practically blind. Even with the loss of most of her sight, she was still able to do many things on her own. When I would come to stay, she would always to help me with "this" or try to so "that" even though I was perfectly capable by now of doing it on my own. I usually never let her, but she always tried.
This trip was different- it marked a new chapter for me. I'm not sure that I could give this chapter a name that wasn't a paragraph long because of all of the complex feelings. And I won't go into specific details out of courtesy, but simple daily functions that each of us do without thinking have become belaboring or impossible for my once super-human grandma. She needs assistance in almost everything she does and in many instances this trip, I felt the shift towards a role reversal. For example, much like she would insist on holding my hand in the store when I was a child, I insist on holding her arm walking through the aisles. It must be more that frustrating to be so capable for so long only to now need so much help. I've asked her about life many times and she says that the years seem to run by faster and faster, almost as if time slips away from us.
There are so many things that I have thought about after this trip, but the main thing that has stuck out to me is to be grateful. I know that my body will not always be able to run multiple miles at a time or lift heavy things or even remember special memories. I know that these things don't last forever, but today I'm grateful that I have these simple things as I've witnessed that they might not always be that simple.