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Comparison – Use it Wisely

Comparison to family is tricky!

After a writing dry spell after Christmas, I have come to realize there have been major changes for me as I’ve passed the “70” mark.  And I’ve begun the process of comparison with medical issues Mom had. I’ve talked about taking care of my aging parents in previous posts.  Now there are things happening in my life that are finally sinking in to me.  I’m getting closer and closer to being the one needing care.

 

Comparison

I saw my mother fight a heart enlarging because of an illness during her teens that almost killed her.  The long-term after effect was damage to her heart muscle in several ways including atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia, pleurisy and the enlarging I spoke of. I, too, had a childhood illness that almost caused my death.  So here’s another comparison.  She was 4’10” when she passed at 78 having shrunk from 5’3″.  In the last five years, I’ve shrunk from 5’4″ to 5’0″.

Another Comparison

The comparison is now I’m showing some of the same medical issues.  In my case, it’s a-fib.  No, it’s nowhere near the issue my mother had, and there are so many more procedures and medications to help.  She might not have suffered an aneurysm if those had been available in the middle ’90’s.  The comparison here is that I’m now over 70.  I fight the fear of not being able to see any potential great grand children.

Comparison Stops Here

For many reasons, I now firmly believe that comparison is part and parcel of my fears.  And…, I’ve managed to overcome some of it.  After trial and error, the doctor and I have come to an agreement over the medication I take for my a-fib.  No, you can’t stop it with medication, but reducing the possible ramifications of that a-fib should it start up again is very possible.

I don’t know if its actually possible to stop making comparisons, so I’m directing those comparisons in other directions – more productive directions, I hope.

Okay, I’ll get to the point eventually!  The one I’m working on now is three-fold.  First of all, it’s about deciding if I want to retire again.  I just turned 71.  I enjoy my job for the most part.  I’m also learning new skills that could be put to work on a part-time, home-based basis.  So which is better for me in the long run is a big question.  The second comparison is where do I want to live.  I’d love to be somewhere warm, but is there somewhere warm, not too hot, with decent internet providers, no unreasonable traffic, and no snow?  That’s not likely.  The third comparison is one every couple goes through – do we stay in this house or get one better fitting our aging process?

Further discussion on this is redundant right now, for reasons not worth going into right now (goes back to fears – got to stop that! 🙂 ).  Let’s just say that new medication to limit the possibility of stroke or heart attack, working more diligently toward weight control (really tough at 71 with little to no metabolism left 🙂 ), and the fact that I do have a job I love has reduced the fear level immensely.

The point is: (Finally!!) Go ahead and make those comparisons.  And use the results to help you find the positive side of aging.  Hey, we’re all going through it – we are baby boomers after all!

Holiday Survival

The Thanksgiving holiday is in the past, and Christmas is closer with every day.

This holiday season brings joy to us.  It also brings memories of loved ones no longer with us.  With that comes a flurry of emotions – different for each person who has lost a loved one.

My family Christmas Day 1951
Mom, Dad, me and Prince on Christmas Day. Our first Holiday in Alaska.  We all loved the cold, crisp weather back then.

I know I’ve used this picture in previous posts.  It is my first complete Christmas memory.  My Dad has turned 40 that year.  Mom was 33.  I had turned 4 that year, and the dog behind me was still a puppy – maybe about 7 months old. This picture helps me cope during any holiday event.

What does this have to do with coping with loss over the holidays?  Simply this:  It’s one of the happiest memories of my childhood.  There are times during the holiday season I have to stop and look at this picture to remember that.

No childhood is perfect.  The memories are not all pleasant.  My long term illness stressed Mom and Dad to the max, I’m sure.  No matter what, they were always there for over fifty years of my life.

The first Holiday without Mom

Mom passed away in November, 1996, beginning the internal conflict over Holiday events.  My Dad held in his emotions inside.  The only indication of his feelings was his insistence we have the usual decorations for Christmas after refusing a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

This was the real start – where I began to learn how to cope with grief and loss.  Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as I struggled to control my emotions over “my” loss and focus on helping my father copy with his propensity to hold in all emotion, I remembered a book I’d read a few years before.  I’d even participated in a web chat with the author on CompuServe in ’93 or ’94.

The book is “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Dr. Brian Weiss, a Psychiatrist.  His experiences, detailed in this book and it’s sequel, strengthened my ability to understand and come to grips with my emotions.  See his website here.   With understanding, even a little understanding, comes peace.

Don’t get me wrong, peace isn’t instantaneous.  And even though I found myself skeptical at first, what Dr. Weiss documents is real from his own clinical files.  The more I read, the more I found myself able to overcome the negative emotions from my Mother’s death.

Holidays after Dad Passed

Fast forward to the Holiday after the passing of my father in September, 2002.  After his long illness, grief was not the top of my list.  Initially, I felt more guilt.  I’m told that’s natural.  No matter.  It hurts.  The first holiday after his death left me with little joy.

Being with my family for Christmas day brought its own additions to the pain I carried after Dad’s death from cancer.  My grandson made my day by talking about how much he loved his great-grandfather, and the fun they’d had talking about cars and planes.  However, another member of the family had other words quietly for me, just adding to the feeling I’d not done enough for him.

Finding Healing

That continued for several years.  I pushed my way through the holidays.  Yet something happened for me in 2006 after the death of another family member in August.  I pulled out “Many Lives, Many Masters” again.  Then, with an almost unbearable thirst for more, I pulled up Dr. Weiss’s website and found he’s written more books.  In them, I found healing.

I’m not saying these books were my only help.  I spent many hours in prayer and meditation.  After reading Dr. Weiss’s books I found prayer more fulfilling, and the guilt lessening.  I had done everything within my abilities and resources.  The healing process actually began then.

Mom and Dad and me on Christmas Day 1951

The Holiday Season Now

I have to admit there is still an emptiness, albeit a much smaller one, during the holiday season even after all these years – Mom’s been gone 21 years.  Dad’s been gone for 15.  Even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, as parents they rated at the highest level.

How do I cope today?  When I feel the empty spot opening up, I look at these pictures, and some from later years.  I remember all they sacrificed for me over many years.  The pictures bring back the fun and joy.  Prayer and meditation, along with my son, grandson, and boyfriend, closed those doors to vacant rooms.  I let myself tear up when watching my mother’s favorite Christmas movie (“The Bishop’s Wife” – the original version), or hearing her favorite holiday songs.  There’s no shame in remembering.

Yes, I still feel the guilt – the wondering if I did enough for each of them.  Recently, I was diagnosed with a mild version of the same heart condition Mom carried for the last 20 years of her life.  Believe it or not, I felt guilty because there is now a medication that would have given her a much longer life had it been available then.

I also know I did what I could under the circumstances with the resources available.  Knowing that helps me fight that guilt – and makes their absence each Christmas a reason to remember them.

 

Some initial thoughts on aging.

There was just so much to think about as my 70th birthday approached! Now, I’m not saying I haven’t thought through all the same things before. You may have even begun really thinking about them the day that first AARP membership card arrived in the mail. But if you’re like me at all, the 70th birthday seems like quite the milestone and brings its own joys, changes, and possibly even a fear or two. No matter what order these things belong in to you, this age is a milestone for me. If you’ll take a look at a blog I posted on QuickQuillGroup a few days ago, you’ll see why I decided to create this blog.

The McPeekes Winter 1951

Continue reading “Some initial thoughts on aging.”

A Care-Giver Lesson Learned

Mom & Me 1951 before care-giver

In 1996, my mother, Phyllis, passed away. The last two years of her life held several hospital stays and an every-lessening level of energy. My responsibilities as her full-time care-giver were minimal.  They mostly keeping the house clean, taking her places including the grocery store and appointments with her doctors. At 76, she had called me and asked me to try to get a hardship transfer to a nearby facility so I could help her out as a care-giver. My father, whose eyesight was diminishing because of Macular Degeneration.  Other vision issues simply refused to admit he couldn’t see well enough to drive any more. She felt the stress of riding with him to town for shopping and medical appointments was aggravating her condition. Her doctors all agreed. Continue reading “A Care-Giver Lesson Learned”