Have you ever wondered what it will be like when you are "old?" I read once that "old" is ten years older than you are right now. My mother is ninety-eight. In many ways, I don't think she will ever get "old." She takes very little medicine and, in general, has a low regard for medical practitioners. We still travel although she has a plate and nine screws holding her ankle together. She broke her ankle the day after I retired from teaching five years ago - the same day we had planned to leave on another of our well-known, exciting adventures. It took only a month before we were on our way with her ankle encased in a boot. Since that unfortunate event, we have continued to travel and I have taken care of her every need.
We always travel by car. You see, Mom doesn't fly. She has never flown and has no desire to try it. She will not go by boat because she was once in a boat on Lake Erie and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard when a storm came up and the boat motor had conked out. She also does not want to go on elevators. Years ago, she was trapped in one with several other people who were going to dinner in Pittsburgh. They were in sweltering heat and it was a horrible experience. I guess, if you live long enough, you can have a horrible experience almost everywhere.
Anyway, travel with Mom is still fun. We take a transport chair, a walker, a rollator (walker with a seat and four wheels) and a toilet seat adapter (in case we need to stop somewhere with a low seat and no grip bars). Otherwise, we travel light so we have room for gifts and things we buy along the way. I insist on stops. No one can sit longer than Mom. She would sit all day in the car if she could.
We used to just go and never had reservations at motels. Now we make reservations ahead of time so we will have a first floor (no elevators, remember?), handicapped accessible, no smoking room. One would think that would solve all problems; it does not. The beds present a new challenge in every room. Night comes and Mom prepares to retire. She walks up to the bed and attempts to sit on it, but the mattress is too tall and she is too short for that to work. She stands, lifts one knee up and tries to crawl in. I prepare to catch her and then lift her other leg up onto the mattress. In some cases we have engaged in more acrobatic moves by using a chair as assistance in the crawling maneuvers. YouTube videos could not provide anything funnier than our amazingly ridiculous combinations of turns and twists. With any luck she manages to crawl on top and throws herself down in a heap. Then it becomes my job to reposition her into a normal sleeping pose, not an easy prospect. By the time she is in, we are both exhausted and sleep comes immediately.
Mom has macular degeneration and sees only peripherally in bright sunlight. This has been interesting as we drive along the roadways. Thank goodness she gave up driving when she realized she could not tell red from green lights. She has never liked to travel on freeways, so we generally take the two-lane back roads. She looks out the windows and makes observations as we go.
"Look at all those people standing over there. I wonder what's going on," she says.
"Herd of cattle, Mom," I remark.
"Let's eat there. It must be good. Look at all the cars!" she says further down the road.
"I don't think we want to eat there," I say, "That's a funeral home, Mom".
"Watch that man! He's right by the street!"
What will it be like when I am "old"? I sometimes hope I never find out, but I surely hope I can laugh about it when it arrives.
Story submitted as part of the Ohio Department of Aging's Family Caregiver Story Project.
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