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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
During Old Settlers weekend on the summer that Grandad turned 102, I went to a used book sale. I found a book by Art Linkletter called "Old age is Not for Sissies". It was the perfect gag gift to the man who has everything! The joke, as it happens, was on me. The print was too small for him to read! But it was the thought that counted.
I've been thinking of Grandad a lot lately vis a vis the aging process ever since a friend of mine of Facebook was wondering how to stop it, or at least slow it down. I was reminded of what the great philosopher Red Green said about getting older being better than the alternative.
Then yesterday I realized that we really had no choice in the matter. Grandad's younger brother, Uncle Don has been the oldest living Hinkle ever since God punched Grandad's time card 5 years ago. Last may Uncle Don turned 95, and it hasn't been easy. I suspect it's harder for the rest of the family to watch, just as it was hard for me to see Grandad go into the winter of his life.
I remember the way he'd lament his old age, having to live out his last days in a body that was falling apart and not being able to do things that used to be "duck soup" as he called it. I recall the trips to the bathroom, rejoicing when he got there on time, and cleaning up when he didn't. Mr. Linkletter was right! Old age is NOT for sissies.
Grandad was always my hero! I had others, of course, there was something different about Grandad. He was tough when he had to be, he was kind and gentle when he could be, but he was usually always fair. That is,or rather was, more often than not the case. The only time Grandad ever really disappointed me was when he choked on that "corn starch pudding" that he loved so much! Only 6 days later, he was gone!
Grandad lived through some mighty hard times. The hardest time he had was most must assuredly when his child bride of 63 years parted with him. He used to tell me that he even missed the sound of her snoring. Uncle Don faces that same prospect of losing his child bride of 60+ years as well. That is something so painful that I could not even imagine it! Grandad held onto Grandma's hand until her life was over, he later told me that he couldn't have let go if he hadn't believed that God was holding her hand. That kind of faith is rare, and it carried him through those lonely years as much as possible. That may have been why I was able to keep it together when he left me behind.
As my mind goes back to the day he choked on the pudding, I recall panicking and shouting "Don't do this to me!", which I regret now. At that moment I realized that Grandad was not going to make it to 105, and 104 was going to be long-shot as well. In my Death and Dying class at DWU Dr. Blumer said that when people mourn, it's not really for the departed, they mourn for how the departure impacts themselves. As I see Grandad's history repeating itself in Uncle Don's branch of the family, I find myself feeling helpless as how to help out. All I can do is pray that God will be with them as he was with us. But make no mistake, I will be impacted as well, albeit at a lesser extent.
We all get older, and whether or not that is better than the alternative is not important. The fact is that until we die, we get older. But as long as God is with us, it doesn't matter where we are. Unlike Grandad and Uncle Don, I won't face the loss of a child bride, but when I reach the end of my life, whether it's at age 120, 105, or even if I never see tomorrow, God will be with me. I hope I never lose sight of that!
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