In a few months my grandmother will turn 98. She has just recently learned the age old lesson that all humans face at one point or another: our body’s betrayal. She has lived an extremely healthy life, only entering the hospital to have her four children. Wearing glasses has been her worst complaint until a knee needed replacing and arthritis hit a few years ago. Even then, she made a quick comeback and was ready for more. But suddenly, the health problems are coming fast and overwhelmingly, and it feels more like work to live than to just let go.
Usually we start to see little signs of aging in our 40’s. We suddenly need glasses to read and naps sound far too good by 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We, of course, push through, and pretend nothing has changed and there was absolutely no creaking of the knees when bending over to pick up the morning newspaper. Even such little events can be terrifying if we are in a state of trying to reach goals and dreams, for we all think that physically, it’s only down hill from here.
Though I come from good genetics, I felt my first body betrayal at the young age of 26 when I woke up blind from optic neuritis. Completely blind in both eyes with retinas detached. I had three babies at home and no knowledge of what my future outcome would be. It took a lot of steroids, six months of healing, an amazing reattachment of retinas, and friends and family helping us survive to make it through. Happily I got most of my sight back and will never take seeing for granted. But I will never trust my body again either.
Since then, health problems have gotten worse, my body weaker, and I am not the person I used to be physically. It’s a betrayal of the highest order because no matter how much you desire healing for yourself, you can’t force your own body to do what you want, even need, it to do. Sometimes that requires a total change of life for you; a mourning period for what you could have been and will no longer be.
But then we scrape ourselves off the ground. Whether we’ve been betrayed by infertility, old age, a car accident, or a chronic disease, we all have to get back up and move along, changing, sometimes hobbling.
Learning is the key. I learned one of the greatest lessons of my life while confined to a bed for over a year. I learned how to listen. I think that skill has gotten me through several teenagers at least. Though not attending their every event, I spent a lot of time listening. Having those now adult children as my best friends was well worth that time in bed, learning that lesson.
So physically, it may be down hill from here. But never mentally. There is always something to be learned.