This post definitely has an upbeat theme, compared to its predecessor (see Living, dated June 13), so do lean in and take note: His aunt did not die. Each time we visited her in the hospital, over a period of weeks, she showed gradual but steady improvement. She even survived the second part of the surgical procedure, where they replaced the leaky heart valve. And then there was the birthday party, attended by family and nursing staff in the hospital. Even though someone else blew out the candles and she deferred sampling the cake, she smiled in appreciation. I watched, clearly dumbstruck.
Now dramatically launched into her 96th year, Riki is back to getting her hair done once a week and last time added a manicure. Rather comfortably lodged in a rehab facility a week ago, she is currently on a more intense physical therapy regimen than I have—including riding a stationary bike, lifting light weights, and walking…every day. Now a member of the Clean Plate Club, she eats everything she is served. She is frustrated by being easily exhausted, however, and longs for her life to return to better days. To keep up her spirits, we discuss fun things we’ll do together once she goes home. She will need someone with her, as she lives alone, and she’s not thrilled about that. But while her life has changed, she is getting back to a level at which she can happily live. Amazing to me, the one who had her respectfully dead and buried one month ago!
I clearly need to rethink my views and while these results aren’t necessarily the average, perhaps adapted surgery for the elderly is not out of the question—in my mind at least (let’s leave the health care issue and its funding dilemma aside for the moment). Within the same month, another 90-something quietly left this earth in relative peace surrounded by loved ones in her home. Like snowflakes, comparisons cannot be made for the many wrinkles of aging. But when I get a phone call from a 95 year-old woman who has taken a step back from death’s door, telling me she is feeling better all the time and is looking forward to luncheons with friends and attending church once again, I see myself in the much-later (ha!) future hopefully in the same frame of mind.
And should my journey into my nineties turn out to be a climb up the face of a mountain, I now think I would have the courage to go for it. Each day truly is a gift, even when you have to work very hard to accent the positive. Besides, there is always someone younger who is watching and learning.