Getting Old

This is 39: A Warning for the Younger Crowd.

In 11 days, I will turn 39. I need to talk about this.

I remember being an elementary school kid in a Chicago suburb in the early 80s and watching prime time TV,  briefly tuning into a show called Dynasty. These were the days of no remote controls :::GASP::: so changing the channel was some what of a grueling task, walking all.the.way. to the TV, clicking the dial endlessly through non-cable TV. Nothing was on one particular evening so I paused on this Dynasty show. I distinctly remember thinking, “what’s with all of these angry, old white people?”. They all had grey hair, fancy clothes, big houses…and they were all very angry. These horrible few moments of watching this show started to form my visual of what growing “old” and becoming an adult would look like for me: I will have grey hair, I will be rich, and I will be angry. I decided at this moment that I did not want to get any older than 40.

Everyone seems to make a big deal about turning 40. Everyone wants to feel their feelings about that age. Understandably so, but nope, not me. I need to talk about 39. Let’s face it, 39 is really the last year of being “young” so this is kind of a big deal. Somewhere along the line, perhaps it was during the Dynasty era, 40 became “Over the Hill”, only to be celebrated with black balloons and tombstones, but 39? Nope. Not there yet. At 39, I’m still ascending up said hill.

But, 39 sure does look and feel a hell of a lot different that 29 and it’s literally a lifetime ago from 19.

My Body:

At 19, I wasn’t really even aware that I had a body to take care of. I was knee deep in college life and all of the peer pressures that came along with that. I was abusing my body in different ways: smoking weed, malnourishing to stay skinny, ignoring any need of sleep…you know, the usual. Shit, I was even working a Hooters to prove a point that “HEY, I am young and free and dumb and it’s somehow still feministic that I’m flaunting my boobs!!!”. It was a glorious, naive time.

At 29, I was more cognizant and realized that I might have to start taking care of my body in some form another..but at the end of the day, it could wait another few years because I was, after all, still in my 20s. Sunblock be DAMNED.

At 39, I’ve never been more aware of my body, and not in a good way. Shit is falling apart.

-I’m acutely aware that my need for “cheater” eyeglasses is in my near future. You know, the ones at Walgreens for $7.99 with the fun leopard print frames? Yeah, those. Twice within the last month, I’ve caught myself struggling to read something that I should have totally been able to.

-My reproductive organs are literally falling out. I’m not shitting you. My periods have become so angry that I have constructed a warning sign that I put on my front door every month that simply states “KEEP OUT”. My hormones rage so much that I never know which personality I will be from day to day. And what the fuck is perimenopause? Well, I have that and it sucks. A hysterectomy is in my very near future, along with those cheater glasses. Perhaps those glasses will come with my pre-op packet at my OB’s office?

-Speaking of vaginas, what the hell is up with peeing myself these days? Maybe childless 39 year olds know nothing of this but childbirth has wrecked my bladder for the long term. It went from, “Hmmm, I think I have to pee” in my late 20’s to, “HOLY SHIT, IF I DON’T GO TO THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW PEE IS…OMG I HAVE TO SNEEZE”, and now there is pee running down my leg. Fuck that.

-And speaking of bathrooms, IBS is a real fucking thing which is apparently tied to the aforementioned reproductive organs falling out. If you don’t know what IBS is, good for you. Google it. And Fuck you, Jamie Lee Curtis, and your Activia yogurt. Fuck you for being right about needing to eat this shit. Only I can’t because I’m lactose intolerant. Sigh.

-That sunblock I skipped in my 20’s? Yeah, it mattered. Sun spots are not as attractive as a sun tan, apparently. And no, Aveeno Sun Spot Corrector, no, it doesn’t work in “just 4 weeks”. It’s been 4 fucking months since I started bathing my face in you twice a day and these sun spots are only getting uglier. And “laugh lines”? Laugh lines are not a thing. They’re called wrinkles. And I have them. I also have a zit the size of a mountain on my cheek so… that’s still keeping me looking young?

-Although I’m the same weight that I was years ago because genetics are on my side, it sure looks a lot different hanging on 39 year old bones. Things sag that really shouldn’t, and that is what it is, but what really bothers me is shopping for clothes. I’m met with such pathetic eyes if I walked into H&M or, God forbid, Forever 21. I feel the judgement of, “Awww, this woman is, like, 40 pretending to be 25. That’s sad.”. But seriously? I don’t know where to shop. I’m stuck in between wearing these awful, high-waisted button up shorts from Charlotte Russe that show my butt cheeks and these retirement style Bermuda shorts that extend down to my knees from Chico’s. It’s very concerning.

-Working out is actually necessary if I want to reduce the jiggle by about 10%. Yoga is my fitness routine of choice but one wrong move and my body becomes such an asshole. My joints will ache and my muscles will get sore within 30 seconds of overdoing. I also consider cleaning my house a workout now…but that might have always been the case.

My Lifestyle:

At 19, my lifestyle was what you would expect. See above. Late nights, dance clubs, Raves (because, well, the 90’s), studying, working: rinse, lather, repeat. My friends were basically anyone that would do these things along with me. Surface relationships were aplenty but it was also so very, very important to me to fit in; still in that high school mentality.

At 29, I had slowed way down, sure, but I was still game for frequent dinner parties, concerts, and sleeping in was still an option that I took every single weekend. I had gym time several times a week and time for friends. I still took friendship break-ups really hard and was so concerned with everyone liking me. Still.

At 39, pretty much everything has changed in this realm.

-I haven’t seen the inside of a dance club since wearing body glitter and putting my hair in tiny cornrows was still en vogue. My social life now consists of play-dates with five and six-year-olds and their moms. Evening plans are a bit scary because it cuts into my yoga-pant-wearing, Netflix time. The best plans are canceled plans at this age. No one needs a social life when you have 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy to watch. Meredith Grey and Christina Yang are perfect gal pals.

-On the subject of friends, I have to say that friendships are much more meaningful. Now, these girls are lifers. They are “ride or die” friends that have been in it for the long haul, listening to me complain about everything from bowel movements to parenting woes. These are not shallow relationships. Thankfully, I have quite a few friends that have been in it with me for 20 years or more. At this age, there’s no time for games, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship. I surround myself with those that want to surround themselves with me. It’s simple at this age. I care much less of what people think of me and cherish those that have stuck around through some really shitty periods of my life. Having a best friend that will analyze my child’s latest bowel movement with me because she’s just a neurotic as I am? That is a real, lasting, quality friendship.

-Meeting new potential friends is now like dating. You have to, like, converse and feel out commonalities. This is totally different than my younger years. For example, if a potential friend doesn’t have children, awesome, but I know I might not have a lasting relationship brewing, mostly because I turn green with envy that she’s still living like a 29 year old and I am pretending to be Luke Skywalker for the 100th time in a day. This becomes a potential issue.

My Career:

At 19, I wanted to save the fucking world. I was a social work major and couldn’t care less that my salary potential was $20,000 a year. Nope. I was going to make a difference in the world! Who needs to pay bills??

At 29, I wanted all of the money. All of it. I had long abandoned my social work stint and went straight to the most fucked up, money making field I could find: medical device sales. Who needs to save the world? I just needed to save myself from being broke!

At 39, I’m back to wanting to save the world but I’m now really understanding that I have to also pay my bills. My professional self has matured. And by matured I mean I have drank the corporate Kool-Aid and I shut the fuck up and do my job so I can sustain a nice lifestyle for my daughter and me.

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Overall, 39 sounds pretty shitty, reading back through all of these thoughts. I’ll tell you, it really isn’t. Yes, at 39 I’m adult-ing. I have no choice but to adult and that sucks. Life tends to start throwing you some crazy shit in your late thirties….but it’s humbling and there’s something very welcoming about knocking on 40’s door. It’s an arrival of sorts, closing the door to a childhood almost. I know myself better now that I ever have. There’s something so freeing in that.

So, here’s to my last year of my younger years. You will find me celebrating at the 5pm early bird seating and I will certainly be in bed by 10pm.

Uncategorized

It was just a normal Tuesday.

Only it wasn’t.

On Tuesday, November 25th, 2014, my 65 year old father suffered a massive stroke.

Whew. Ok, there I said it. The end.

Personal traumatic events are funny. Not like in the “haha” way but in the…almost ironic way, I guess. I started this blog for an obvious reason: I pen my emotions. It’s how I release emotions, good and bad. It’s my therapy. Only, with this subject, I just can’t seem to find any fluidity. I’m totally stunted with not only writing about my dad’s stroke but when I speak about it, it’s like I’m talking about a stranger that went through this, meaning him, my mom and me- all strangers. Coping mechanisms, I haz ’em.

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If you know me, you know that my parents are my best friends. I am an only child and I have always been overly enmeshed with my parents. As in, they even came up to visit me in college and went to the bars with my friends and me. (Hey, Florida State had Tennessee Street and Floyd’s and Creed, and football. Who wouldn’t want to do that with their kid?)

He was everyone’s dad as I was growing up. He was the, “Man, I wish your dad could adopt me” dad, the one that makes me always beam with pride. He was infallible, immortal, ageless.

Confidant, business advisor, handyman, computer repairman, star babysitter, “Bop-bop”, travel companion, unbiased, engineer, advocate. I can’t even come up with enough adjectives to describe my dad. He was not someone who would suffer a stroke and fall into ill-health.

Only, he was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I never wake up early on my own. Never. 6am should not even be a time to be awake in my world. My natural clock says 7am is good, but on this average Tuesday, 5:55am is when I jolted awake. It’s as if someone shook me. I sat straight up in bed, almost breathless. I laid back down, looked at the ceiling briefly and decide to grab for my phone that was on the floor. I saw a missed call from my mom. “Oh God. Please let that have been an accidental call from my dad when he took my mom’s phone off charge this morning. It’s happened before. Nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong.”, talking to myself.

I chickened out on calling her back, I texted her.

“Did you mean to call me?”

It’s like everything stopped in that exact moment when the phone rang. My world stopped completely. I literally could not get my legs to stand or my feet to move or my brain to function as I listened to my hysterical mother telling me something about my dad on the floor, moaning and…”did she say stroke? Did she just say she thought he was dying? Is my mom crying? It’s still dark out, it’s quiet in the house. I must be having a nightmare.”

When people say “my head was spinning”, that is indeed a real thing. My head was spinning. I asked to speak to the paramedics, asked them to take him to Sarasota Memorial. “Ma’am, we don’t have that much time. He won’t survive if we take him that far”.

“What? That far? That’s 30 minutes away. What.is.happening? What’s a stroke again?”. I literally lost all thought process. I was totally stricken with fear. I thought, “maybe if I just stay here and go back to sleep, this won’t be real. Maybe I don’t have to deal with this…because I just can’t”. My motivational thought was then, “What would my dad do if this were me?”.

After I instructed my mom on what was going to happen next (“You stay there, Auntie Dorothy will pick you up, I will meet the ambulance at the hospital”), called my aunt, I suddenly realized…this was real.

I began to hyperventilate. But I couldn’t lose control. “The facts. What are the facts right now?”

-My dad was being taken by an ambulance to Venice Hospital because he had a stroke.

-Lily is asleep in the next room.

-I need to get to the hospital.

-I need to drive there but how will I get my legs to work?

-I need an anti-anxiety pill.

-I probably can’t leave Lily alone.

I called Lily’s father who lives 15 minutes away and he arrives in 6 minutes flat. I somehow manage to get in my car and make it go.

I pull out on the main road right behind the ambulance that was carrying my father. Emergency lights screaming, speed of about 60 miles per hour. My leg was shaking so violently that I couldn’t feel the gas pedal. I honestly could not process what was happening, but I was there.

I go in through the emergency room. I told the triage nurse I thought I was going to pass out. I will never forget her words: “No, you’re not. You’re going to be here for your dad. Sit. Have a sip of water and tell me your dad’s date of birth”.

“Ok, I can do this.”

The time in the ER was not really anything I can piece together. There was a lot of rushing around, a scene like Grey’s Anatomy, no joke. There were a lot of nurses. And a neurologist that showed up that was the furthest thing from Dr. McDreamy.

My mom and aunt showed up at some point. My dad didn’t know how to say his name properly. He knew the year. He had no movement on his left side. He didn’t really know me or acknowledge me. They told me they had to take him for a “procedure” to help stop the stroke damage. TPA, stents, whatever. Only, no, not whatever. I have to pay attention. My dad was always the one here though, paying attention. Where’s my dad?

Everything from here on out was medical. Ups and downs. He won’t live, but he will. He won’t walk, but he will.  24 hour waiting periods to see if he will survive. Sign this “Do Not Resuscitate”. ICU. Left sided weakness. Can’t swallow. Retrain everything. Oh yeah, his heart isn’t working well either. Oh, AND, his left carotid is also blocked and we have to stent that side, too. More 24 hour waiting periods.

And within those 8 days in ICU, my dad, as I know him, showed up, fighting like a mother fucker. He lived. He walked. He swallowed. He talked. He got angry. He was bribing me to sneak him out of there. He complained about the food. He made some jokes, especially when I stepped on his catheter.

Two and a half weeks in intense rehab and he was home two days before Christmas. Home, a different man, yet the same.

So, I sit here seven months later, two days before Father’s Day, trying to process this. I still can’t completely.

People see pictures of him, or maybe even see him, and say “He’s doing so great! He looks so great!”, and he is and he does, but this is his new life filled with doctor’s appointments, medications, and frustrations for him. Roles have reversed and now he must listen to my mom and me rather than the other way around. He must follow doctor’s orders. Although he’s gained some of his independence back (he even drives, against my better judgement), he must give into being taken care of.

His brain is injured, he knows this, but he does not understand his limitations. It’s the fighter in him.

He recognizes that everyone treats him differently and he doesn’t understand why. Through all of this, he truly doesn’t understand what he’s gone through and what his differences are. I’m glad he doesn’t. I don’t want him to see those differences because at the end of the day, he’s still my dad. He’s still here. He’s still trying. He’s still persevering through all of these shitty health problems that have resulted from ignoring preventative medicine for 65 years. He is still here. And although he’s not exactly who he was before November 25, 2014, he wants to be. He is still here.

What I do want him to know is how inspiring he is, how amazing he is, how resilient he is, how brave he is. I have sat down many times to write him a letter to tell him this but I have never been so sure that my words weren’t making enough sense or holding enough weight. How do you possibly capture 38.5 years of appreciation, admiration, and love for someone in a simple letter? It’s impossible to put that in words.

This is where I would say that actions speak louder than words, but, not in this case. My dad and I have never been the overly affectionate type. Hugging and kissing- not our thing. “I love you”s- not very often. Actions. Always actions, communication and gestures with us. But again, how do you show someone enough gratitude when they’ve been your rock, your stability, your go-to person for your whole life?

Im not sure but I hope I’m making him proud by trying.