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Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Growing older


My dad's been in and out of the hospital recently with some issue with his immune system and blood I have a hard time understanding called Thrombocytopenia. This means he has low platelet count.

My step-mom Judy has been managing all of his medical care and I know this is a really big job for her. Being someone's sole caretaker must be a huge amount of work. My mom did this for my step-father, Bill.
I'd like to contribute in some way, but haven't had a very close relationship with my dad and not always the easiest relationship with my step-mom. So I mostly learn about it second hand and talk with my dad when I have a chance.
I've really enjoyed over the years learning about my family history, collecting documents and being a sort of family historian. I've thought of trying to put together some kind of life history document for my dad, since his memory has also been getting worse in recent years. He feels like his memory is worse, but mostly what I notice is that he finds it harder to put sentences together. Words don't come to him very easily. This must be particularly challenging for him, since he is an empathetic person, able to relate to many people, which served him well as a much beloved doctor. And following his retirement from medicine he became a poet, publishing several small books of poetry and winning a number of awards. So losing his language ability must be very frustrating for him.
Getting older isn't easy and our society is not well set up for it. Our families are spread out and so the caretaking often ends up falling on just one person, such as a spouse, or having to put elders into residence homes of varying quality of care. And when it comes to death and dying, we hide it away, pretend it doesn't exist until the tragedy is upon us and small amounts of resources such as hospice are available to help us with this part of life that happens to each and every one of us.
Just thinking this through out loud. I don't know how much time my father has left to live. He's often told me he could die any time, partly due to some men in our family dying young, and also no doubt due to his experience as a family practitioner, where one deals with sickness and death regularly. So I internalized this about my dad, in some ways grieving for him years ago. But now the more imminent possibility is upon me, and I wonder how to work with it while maintaining my sometimes stressful busy life as a physicist and just taking care of myself. I think I will get back to some of my art work and some of my family history projects. It feels like this is the best way I can contribute to the collective process of living and dying and making meaning in our world that sometimes moves so fast and changes so quickly that if we're not careful, everything we care about may have disappeared.

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