It is such an interesting place and stage of life, living near my parents as they grow old. It is bittersweet and painful. I feel as though I am watching an age be drawn to a close - the purse strings seem to pucker and pull, then come tight. The strings almost dangle and dance from my wrist; an entirely other world and a completely different time, encircled, encased.
My father is good, he is still mostly healthy - if you can call someone with a non-existent adrenal system and a recently broken/replaced hip healthy. At 86 his mind is still clear and he has excellent quality of life. He loves to talk politics and history; continues to learn to use technology and modern contrivances. This week he's trying to learn to use a small flip video recorder, perhaps next week he'll have a twitter account. He relies heavily on his teen-aged grandchildren to show him how to manage it all - but he's sharp.
I have watched people age, cared for the elderly for years. Many of them have been absent from their minds long before their bodies were ready to say farewell. My Grandma was like that, Alzheimer's invaded her brain and she didn't know her own daughter for a decade. The agony of aging was not so grim for her. To an extent, she didn't know what she was losing. Except for brief spells, she was content.
But to watch the aging of a body when the mind is still so good and the memories so bright - well, that brings a suffering of its own.
I imagine that it hurts a once strong man as he watches his hands jerk and tremble when he gestures, to see his frailty as his skin bruises and tears as he bumps his hand against a door.
It hurts a formerly independent man, an original "I'll do it myself-er" to need consistent help from others. It's not really pride, it's just a way of life turned upside down.
He takes trips with his family, visiting old sites one more time, remembering the younger and carefree days when he roamed the backroads, fished the creeks, and hunted the hills for coons with his buddies. He's never forgotten a field, nor a tree, nor a hill. "WHERE did the time go," he wonders? He watches the grandsons run, and thinks, "How did I get this old, where did my energy go? It seems I should be able to run with them."
And what to do with the memorabilia of a life of travels - artifacts from people groups long gone, bits and pieces of forgotten eras? He visits a lawyer and tries to think things thru. "Who will want my memories? Who has room for them?" He does what he thinks best and leaves the rest to work itself out with time. What else can he do? He is not finished by any means, I certainly am not writing him off - but there is no denying the passing of time. He knows he must do these things, take these steps.
It hurts a bit, I think. I grieve that for him.
But he does have Jesus, and the promise of the life yet to come. He believes in the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and he believes that he too, will be raised one day. There is life yet to come for old bones. This is how it is for the Christian - as we begin to purposefully shut down one life and say farewell to times, memories and places we once inhabited, we begin to look ever more hopefully to the life to come.
And he does have us - blood of his blood and flesh of his flesh - here, running before him. The children spread their own wings, explore, make their own memories - some which include him and their times spent with him. He's seen his children's children flourishing and thriving and living and loving and growing (and sometimes being naughty.)
That, I think, is a comfort.