Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The trickle of life

Mom and Dad managed to make Rachel's high school graduation; a truly supreme effort on their part and for which we are truly grateful. It meant a great deal to all of us. Poor Mom is really struggling. Dad talks quite a bit about how much weaker she has become and how life has lost its allure (well, I'm paraphrasing here). The slightest effort tires her out. The one thing that she still does is paint, though not as often as I would like. It gives her focus and meaning. It requires little physical effort. It takes her mind off her infirmities. When she's not painting, she is often in bed. It's not at all unusual for me to arrive on Tuesday's lunch with her there, either asleep or too weak to get up. I live in perpetual unease about another pratfall by either of them. That alone could end it. They have both had close calls. Dad is getting better about using his cane, but he remains cavalier about it.

Life trickles out of the elderly in spite of all the patches we use to stop the leaks. Death by old age is inexorable and utterly predictable. It is devoid of the red-hot anguish that turns the death of younger people into occasions of such abject grief. Instead, we just sit with our aging parents, hold their hand, and wait for the Bus. Meanwhile, I question how I will grieve when they're gone. I'm doing that now in the occasional melancholy I feel when I visit them inside their slowing orbit. But I know only the red-hot version of grief, so it's hard for me to tell what the cooler one feels like. Is this it?