Saturday, July 23, 2011


What is age, anyway? I was faced with this question the other day when I went to visit my Dad. He was asleep in his special chair when I got there, so I quietly sat down next to him and just enjoyed the peace. I found myself investigating his face and thinking about the fact that he'd just had his 73rd birthday-a number that it took me a little tortured mental arithmetic to come up with but I finally did it, and then was amazed! You see, he just doesn't look 73!

His hair is completely grayish/white now, although still thick, and there are a few age spots on his skin, and the flesh under his chin has fallen, but in general, the man looks like he just celebrated his 63rd birthday! He has very few age lines and his skin is still fairly taut, at least on his face. He certainly isn't a mass of wrinkles, although I suppose everyone ages a little differently. But two things occurred to me.

The first one was that, for me, he'll always be kind of stuck at 65 because that's around when my life started becoming so entwined with his. That's when his disease really got bad and all the years he's lived since don't seem to compute in my mind in a way. He'll always be the age when he stopped being my father, and started being something else, something without an official name but that resembles a child in that I'm in control of his entire life.

The second thing was to wonder whether one of the effects of being unaware of the stresses of the world, and the input of your own past and regrets and hopes and emotions, and the sometimes difficult input of others, might just possibly cause one to age a little less visibly. He has few worry lines because he has had few worries over the last eight or nine years, beyond whatever internal demons the disease caused. His face is slack because his mind is. From what I can remember of my grandparents, they looked a lot older at 74 than my father does now. I guess this might be one benefit of this terrible disease, although not one he'll ever get to take advantage of.

As I sat there with him, communing quietly, studying his face and thinking these thoughts through, I couldn't help but think that this couldn't possibly be what he thought his septugenarian years would look like. This wasn't what he would have wanted, and I'm pretty sure he would have traded looking younger for a few more years of being aware.


  1. Joy: Once again your words sound like similiar things I have thought about my mom. I am referring to how you described your dad as not aging. My mom is 77 and still has some dark hair, virtually no wrinkles and at times with a quick glance she looks like her old self. We have been living with this disease for about 8 years and at times it seems it was so gradual that now her old self seems so long ago...This is not what anyone had planned...

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