Sunday, June 11, 2006

“Old Age Is Not For Sissies”

I have just fed Bea chocolate ice cream, her favorite, in the middle of the afternoon. Before the ice cream, she spent twenty minutes conscientiously eating half a salmon salad sandwich. She held it most of the time herself although I had to put the sandwich back in her hand once or twice.

Bea is much more awake today but still seems a bit forlorn, as if waiting for something to happen. In fact, she reminds me of Eeyore in a book she read a million times to my brother. It occurs to me that she might enjoy the memory, so I say, "Remember Eeyore? He had a birthday. Pooh Bear brought him a jar full of honey, only it was empty by the time Pooh reached Eeyore's house. And Piglet. Remember Piglet? He gave Eeyore a balloon. But it broke on the way. Eeyore put the broken balloon in the empty pot and was quite happy with his present."

Bea just looks at me with her big eyes. I guess she doesn't remember.

“We have a guest who is 80,” I say as I wipe a few bits of salmon from around her mouth. “Almost your age.”

“How old am I? 97?”

“Almost 97.”

Bea thinks about this for a few minutes, then comments, “And, I’m supposed to be wiser.”

There’s a boney protrusion at the bottom of her spine. I notice that the area is getting red, so I carefully position Bea on her side. I apply Bag Balm and a bandage in an attempt to prevent the redness from becoming a bedsore.

“Why do you take such good care of me?” Bea asks. “Are you my mother?”

It occurs to me that the phrase Bea used to repeat all the time - "Old age is not for sissies" - is also relevant for caretakers. I recognized that my mothering skills would serve me well in caring for Bea, but I did not expect this reversal of roles to be such an emotional challenge ...


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