Sunday, March 3, 2019

SOL19 Slice #3 Aging is painful work

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL19)
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for the month of March 2019.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Paper cut: a cut caused by the sharp edge of a piece of paper (MacMillan Dictionary)

Tiny, almost imperceptible, and yet so painful. 

Mom died four months ago, in late October.
We moved Dad from their house to an assisted living apartment, at his behest, a couple weeks after Mom died, so that he would have caregivers close at hand. A month or so later, it was clear that he would never be able to live so independently again, and we emptied his house of belongings, dispersing them to family members, giving things away to thrift shops, and throwing things out.

Another month later, we moved him from his assisted living apartment into the nursing home. After a few weeks here, we realized he would never be able to live even minimally independently again, and, the last week of February, we emptied his assisted living apartment of belongings, dispersing them to family members, giving things away to thrift shops, and throwing things out. He will live out his days in the nursing home.

Aging is painful work for all of us.

He is 89, suffering from Parkinson's and profound grief. He and Mom met in 8th grade. He doesn't know how to move on, without. Yet he must.

He lives 600 miles away and I try to visit him monthly, now that he is so alone. Thankfully, my brother lives just a mile from Dad, overseeing his care. He has many visitors - his children and grandchildren.

There are so many small moments that profoundly hurt, like paper cuts.

A former Admiral, he is now powerless.
Used to giving orders, he is now entirely dependent.
Avid reader and television news junkie, he is nearly blind.
Conversations or books on tape are impossible because he is quite deaf.
A keen mind, he has the beginnings of dementia.
A once strong, athletic man, he has lost much of his balance, needing a walker to move, and he needs assistance to get out of bed or a chair.

All the little things that pain him and he can do nothing about:
falling out of bed,
needing assistance to the bathroom,
trying to remember someone's name,
wanting a snack right now, right this very minute - but having to wait,
"Where's my BLT?" he roars.

All the little things that pain him and he can do nothing about.
He is incapable of 
changing into his favorite sweatshirt,
listening to his favorite singer [Eddy Arnold],
making his own bed,
remembering his own meds.

All the little things that pain him and he can do nothing about:
not particularly liking the caregiver on duty,
surrounded by 'old people' [his words!] more fragile than he,
unable to remember the date or time or what comes next in his schedule,
seeing only the vaguest outline of the high school photo of Mom on his nightstand.

All the little things that pain him and he can do nothing about,
Each day offering a little less

All the little things that pain him and he can do nothing about:
but he is aware of each,
with heightened awareness,
just like paper cuts.

He shares with me a story:

"I said no to my physical therapist this morning. I don't see why I should even bother. Last night, at dinner, they made me sit next to an old guy. He was holding a baby doll! He was holding a baby doll that looked real, but, come on, you and I know - it wasn't real. Maureen, he was cooing at the baby doll. How did I end up in this place? I was never, ever, ever going to live in an old folk's home. This is hell."

after all these years
to accept, to be humble, to delight in very small things,
like the window seat in the sunshine,
at the end of the hall,
where he can sit
and savor
all that came before.

I don't know if it is possible for Dad to learn this.

To be with my father, right now, is as if to watch him die from 10, 000 paper cuts.


  1. Oh my heavens, Maureen. As one who is in my 50's, this speaks to me so loudly, thinking of the chapter my own parents are in. I feel you father's paper cuts, along with yours - the daughter who can not help him see. Are you the oldest? The wisdom in your words give hints that you are. I have a dear writing friend who told me that we sometimes write to keep our relationships with loved ones alive. Keep writing about your father and your mother. It will be a huge part of your own healing. Thank you for these words. They were beautiful to read.

    1. Bless you for this! I am not the oldest, but I am the only daughter - in the midst of four boys. Thank you so much for commenting!

  2. Maureen- I weep as I read this. I can't even imagine how hard it must be for your dad. My mother, aged 85, lives in a senior living center. She is in an independent living apartment right now and HATES it. She is still able to get out and around and my sisters and I each go visit her every week and even so it's so, so, so hard. Sending lots of prayers and hugs.

    1. It is so hard. Their freedom and independence becomes less and less. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I really love your comparison to the paper cut...your father sounds like such a character. I lost my sister in September who was disabled for a long time after a stroke. Thank you for writing about these very real moments.... hugs

    1. Yes, Dad is a character! Thank you for commenting!

  4. Watching our parents age is truly the worst part of being an adult. As so many friends lose their parents I try to cherish every moment with mine, unsure how life will even be the same when they are gone.

    1. Yes, watching our parents age is very hard. I am treasuring my health, trying to be strong!

  5. Your writing leaves me speechless with its truth and sacredness. Don't apologize for this! I didn't find it depressing. I found it so REAL. Blessings to you at this time of your family's life.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful words. It is REAL.

  6. All the little things that pain him are things that pain you and all of us who have read your story. Your writing is beautiful and the content is touching. Grace and strength to you as you support your dad.

    1. "All the little things that pain him are things that pain you..." This is so true. Thank you!

  7. Beautifully written. I've been through something very similar. You have captured the painful slow march of death.