Lessons in graceful aging

My mother has always been outgoing, fun loving, and outspoken. She is a deep down Texas girl , and an over the top Arizona Wildcats fan. In fact this woman is a true sports fan. Depending on the season her TV will be showing football, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, volleyball; she knows and loves most sports.

She raised three daughters, while married to a career military man, moving from state to state, per the orders of the US Air Force. She adapted, was fearless, instilled love and family values, and made sure dad was able to do the things he needed to in his job.

She spent months on her own caring for myself and my sister Lisa while my dad was stationed in Germany. She had been very sick during her pregnancy, and after delivery had gall bladder surgery (a big deal in 1956) so they felt she should stay behind (she hated that she missed it.)

She managed, sometimes barely, during his constant TDY to Phan Rhang, Vietnam while being stationed in the Philippines at Clark Air Base. Looking back I’m not sure I would have done as well living in a foreign country alone while my husband was gone for two or three months at a time to a war zone.

Once we girls were older she always had a part time job. Whether it was working in the pro-shop at the base golf course in Misawa, Japan or as a teacher’s aide at Homer Davis School in Tucson, Arizona. She worked in the athletic department of the University of Arizona for decades, meeting countless people who would remember her whenever they saw her. There were times she was distracted with responsibilities outside of the home, and I was amazed at her energy and will to get things done.

She spent years keeping things stable for us girls while dad worked shift work at ASARCO mines. When dad was seriously injured on the job and was disabled from the injury she diligently cared for his wounds, kept up the house, babysat her grandchildren, and continued to take part time employment. I could write a book, hmm.

Now she is a sprightly 86, and her age is becoming a factor in her lifestyle.

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After my dad passed away she lived with Chuck and I, and it worked well as long as she could drive. But age related macular degeneration left her vision impaired enough she couldn’t pass a vision test so no more driving. I’ll admit we were all thankful to the DMV for that one. With my husband and I both working full time she spent many days sitting in front of the TV, talking on the phone and waiting for one of us to come home. She was getting bored and felt very lonely. Local family members would come and take her out when they could, but their situation was the same -working full time. At one point my sister and I noticed symptoms of depression, and worried her health would start failing. After a heart to heart with her about it she consented to a search for a fun place to live.

She moved into a retirement community, not assisted living which she is quick to clarify, and has done very well for several years. She was busy with the activities they offered, she made lots of friends, she could share interests with other residents, and she seemed to blossom with youth. However, in the last year we have all noticed a slowing, frequent illness, less participation, and her own acknowledgement that she is weaker. She has started using a walker giving her a bit of independence, but she is having a painful problem with one of her knees, and a related problem with her hip.

It gives me pause.

I just talked to her about the Arizona Wildcats basketball team being the Sweet Sixteen, and she is so excited about it. She recalled her years working at the local games, and wants to talk to anyone about the game. She can hold her own with the best of them. She even worked a Super Bowl in Phoenix and was interviewed on local television about her participation. The Dallas Cowboys were playing in the game, and she was and is a Dallas fan.

So…we keep watching with envy, this woman who is pushing through life with pride, determination, and joy. Go mom!

Cheers!

-N

 

 

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No cure for travel bug

I was born into a military family. When I was six months old my father was transferred from Harlingen, Texas to Yuma, Arizona. This began a life of travel for our family, thanks to the US Air Force. It was all I knew and I adapted well to this transient lifestyle. I made easy but not lasting friendships, and I looked forward to the next assignment my father was given.

By the time I started high school in Tucson I had lived in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Japan and the Philippines. In 1971 my father retired at Davis-Monthan  AFB in Tucson.

I was not happy about it. My sisters felt very different than I.

2There were so many places I wanted to see, but my dad was done. His retirement after 20+ years was what he wanted. Before his service in the Air Force he had spent active duty in the Navy then post WWII in Navy reserves as a very young man. So to him his military career was completed.

However, I had acquired an incurable case of travel bug.

I love going someplace I have never been, finding my way around, and fitting into life in that locale. Becoming acquainted with the locals who give you tips on the best places to eat, shop, and relax is enlightening and empowering as a traveler. Regularly I get what I think is a sort of travel depression from longing for the sights and sounds of a distant place.

My dilemma is the disposable cash to fulfill these desires.

So I study photos, history and literature, immersing my mind in what is still left to discover about places like Istanbul, Edinburgh or Budapest. Amazing as it may seem I’ve never been to New York City and count on it, that it’s on my bucket list. I would love to travel from Tuscany to Sicily trying local wines and food. I want to hike the Appalachian trail, spending the days finding the secrets of the mountains. I would love to sit at a bistro in Paris within sight of the Eiffel Tower, watching humanity pass by. Diving in the Florida Keys or the Red Sea, walking a forest of Blue Bells in Kent, waiting for Civil War ghosts at Gettysburg and riding the train from Tokyo to Misawa in Japan. You get the drift.

Desiring the unknown, compelled by different culture and language, finding out what I need to collect for understanding from the next stop and pushing myself toward discovery, I dream of skies, stars, food, faces, and an understanding that my journey will ultimately bestow on me is thrilling.

Immersing yourself in a new environment and culture is the best way to accept the differences and similarities in all of us.

Cheers!

-N

(P.S. My father was movie star handsome!)