Monday, August 26, 2013
75 - and Counting.
As I sat with Dad the other day, enjoying the cool breeze coming in his open window, cancelling out the heat of the day outside, I found myself studying some of the greeting cards sitting on his side table. There was one left over from Christmas, and the card I had sent for Father’s Day, and two that said, Happy Birthday! They were from my two aunts, Dad’s sisters, and were inscribed simply, wishing him a good day. Sometimes the summer just goes by so fast, and I realized that it was, in fact, July, which meant that Dad had just had a birthday.
75 isn’t actually that old anymore, with people living into their 80’s and up, but I have no real idea what Dad would be like as a normal 75 year old. I imagine that, were he healthy, he would still be travelling and skiing and investing robustly. I just don't know what it's like to have parents this age. Many of the people that are close to my age still have at least one functioning parent in their 70’s, although they are slowing down in many cases. A friend of mine has just started to have to care for her mother, who I think is in her early 70’s and who until recently was independent and living on her own. I, of course, know exactly what that is like since I’ve been doing it for ten years, now, but it seems odd that it is happening to her. It appears that I’m at last starting to fit into my age group – or my age group is starting to fit in with me.
It took me a minute (and some counting on my fingers) to figure out which birthday Dad had just celebrated, and I concluded that he had just turned 75! Sometimes I can’t believe how old he really is (especially because I still feel like I’m fourteen), largely because he just doesn’t look that old – which, of course, I attribute to the dementia. He’s been suffering for so many years now, I suspect since his late fifties, and has come to seem somewhat ageless to me. And, of course, it is hard for me to think of him as my father, in terms of a ‘parent’, because I have been deciding and running his life for so long. I usually don’t think about it, but I realized that I really don’t know what having a normal, 75 year old parent would be like.
The 75th birthday is a big deal and in the old days, I would have baked him a cake, made him dinner, and bought him a tool that he already had three of. Unfortunately, he passed this milestone unknowing and uncelebrated, since even I didn’t remember. Dad will continue to move forward in age chronologically, but move backward cognitively. There will be more birthdays he will not know about and I will forget to acknowledge, because there is no more reason. Sometimes it seems like such a waste. Dad turned 75 this summer – I just wanted everyone to know.