The Skin I’m In

My body is beginning to betray me as I age.  Oh, we all know that our bodies do tend to get less dependable as we get older.  We see enough television commercials to convince us that our bones are brittle, our eyes are squinty, and our sex lives are lukewarm.  On the other hand, I didn’t really think about the little things that decline as the years advance.  For me, my body seems to have become a bit testy about substances it formerly tolerated with no complaint. 

About ten days ago, I purchased one of those cute little angel pins at the Hallmark store that come attached to a little romance card that shares some sweet, sentimental message.  I bought the angel because the message involved missing a loved one who has passed.  Also, the body of the little angel was made of a tiny white rose. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that white roses at Christmas were a “thing” for my mother (for those of you who are newer cyberfriends or would just like a refresher, please visit http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/05/the-white-white-rose-of-home/). Anyhow, I happily shelled out my six bucks for the white angel rose.  

The next day, I fastened the little pin to the top of a dark burgundy velour blouse.  Even though it was tiny, it was quite noticeable on the dark background.  Several people at church noticed and commented on it.  It gave me the opportunity to tell them about what a wonderful person my mother was and how the pin reminds me that I am lucky to have her love forever.   

Unfortunately, within a couple of days of wearing the pin, my skin exploded into a red, angry, itchy, hivey, whealy rash that covered my whole chest.   Any part of my body that came into even the slightest contact with the pin revolted.  Apparently, the pin triggered some sort of metal allergy that I didn’t even know I had.  As I scratched, I think the rash started taking on a life of its own, independent of the pin.   I started sprouting red bumps from my breasts to my chin line.  It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was pretty obvious that my skin was throwing a temper tantrum.  

I considered having a contest on this blog to name the rash.  However, I was hoping that I would be able to lose the rash before I could organize a contest, so I decided to do the honors myself. Given the season and the fact that my chest was the color of neon infused tomatoes, I decided to name my pet rash Rudolph. For a few days, I spread hydrocortisone cream on my chest.  Rudolph’s color didn’t change much.  The itch might have been marginally less uncomfortable…. for a little while until I thought about it again.  I kept thinking Rudolph was getting a little smaller, but Max looked at me in alarm every time he I wore a blouse that wasn’t a turtleneck so my “improving” assessment might have been wishful thinking.  

Yesterday, I noticed that the cream I was slathering all over my chest was 15 years old.  That may have something to do with the fact that it didn’t seem to be working very well.  I treated myself to a new tube of hydrocortisone cream.  Almost immediately, Rudolph is retreating.  The itch is not as compelling.  Rudolph’s color is more like under ripe tomatoes without the neon now.  Rudolph is occupying much less square footage on my chest.   

So, my rash is almost gone.  However, as I was inspecting my skin in the mirror this morning, I noticed that there was a hidden Mickey formed by three of the remaining hives.  Do you think it might be a Christmas miracle?

Have you noticed small, unexpected changes in your body that have come with age?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

Do Babies Ever Come Installed With Refurbished Knees?

The reason I ask is that I’m pretty sure my knees are older than the rest of me. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but my knees seem to be protesting the passage of time much more vociferously than any of my other body parts.

I used to kneel in church with relative ease. I enjoyed sitting on the floor and could rise from that position without assistance. I was the designated “get down on my hands and knees” person to plug and unplug various computer connections to reboot them (since that is the only computer troubleshooting trick I know, it stands to reason that I would get lots of practice at it.) I am a fairly clumsy person and had infinite practice crawling around on the floor retrieving things I dropped.

Now, things are a little different. I kind of hope that elderly, immobile people will sit next to me in church services so I can use them as an excuse to remain sitting on the edge of my seat during traditional “kneeling” times in the service. I would never voluntarily sit on the floor unless I intended to die there because I know I could never get up again. If I have to reboot the computer, I either just push the button to turn off the power supply, get Max to pull out the plugs, or consider buying a new computer. As for the many things I drop, I shamefully admit to sometimes using one of those grabber thingies.

It isn’t that I am inactive or shy away from exercise. I do housework. I do yardwork when I really must. I participate in water aerobics classes. I walk over six miles a day. I’m actually a pretty healthy person, all in all. My vital signs and lab work suggest that I’m wearing well. There is just something about activities requiring excessive pressure on the knees that makes me suspicious that I might have come with used knees.

I think, before I was born, maybe God was trying to conserve resources and found a couple of used knees that someone returned knocking around in the body parts bin. He made a few tweaks to spiff them up a little and installed them in the new Terri1959 model baby girl. I’m sure those refurbished knees were “as good as new” at the time, but I think their patina is wearing a bit thin almost 58 years later.

Yes, the extra weight I’ve carried around in the last 58 years may have something to do with the wear and tear. Yes, the bare feet and footwear without adequate support may have contributed. Still, wouldn’t you think the rest of me would also be protesting if the problem was just ordinary depreciation? After all, my knees have had no life of their own separate from my hips, ankles, back, shoulders, etc.

Come to think of it, maybe my hips, ankles, back, shoulders, and my etc. are complaining too. I pulled weeds for forty minutes this morning and felt like I was run over by a truck. Let me clarify…. all of me felt like it was run over by a truck. So maybe my knees truly aren’t any older than the rest of me. Maybe all my body parts are feeling their age. And maybe the warranty just ran out!

What do you think?  Do you have a certain body part that seems to have aged way beyond the rest of you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Growing Up

My relationship with my mother has changed since we all moved. 

I knew about the phenomenon of role reversal that many adult children experience with their parents.  As the parent ages, the adult child becomes the caregiver.  The parent becomes more and more dependent on his or her child.  I have seen that happening gradually in my own relationship with my mother since my father died suddenly about twenty years ago.  The velocity of that role reversal has certainly increased since our move.  In our old home, my mother needed a lot of help with even simple physical tasks, but was very independent and competent when it came to arranging her own life and making decisions.  She always made her own medical appointments, decided on her own purchases, and even untangled problems like a glitch in her credit card billing on her own.  Up until a year before we moved, she was even preparing her own tax returns.  Since our move, she has had something of a crisis of confidence.  She is still perfectly capable of making her own decisions and arrangements, but seems reluctant to do so.  I am making her doctors’ appointments, overseeing her home improvements, monitoring her health insurance coverage, and, at her insistence, reviewing any research she does prior to making any decision. 

 At first, I was a bit disconcerted with this, as I thought it meant that her move across country had somehow triggered a decline in her general ability to cope.  After all, if she was doing all these things on her own and working full time for several months a year and doing substantial volunteer work while she was in her old home, why could she suddenly not trust herself to decide on a medical insurance plan once she moved across the country?  Then, a friend of mine suggested that it was very possible that my mother was managing all the routine tasks of her life the best she could simply because she had to do it herself.  My friend was absolutely correct.  My mother might not have been comfortable or confident in what she was doing, but didn’t feel she could ask for help because I was working fulltime at a very stressful job and lived 70 miles away from her.  Once I retired and we were living 15 miles from each other, she felt freer to show her vulnerability.  In reality, she has not declined.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  She is feeling well and her blood pressure is under control, even without medication.  She admits to feeling happier and less stressed.  Now, my challenge is finding the balance between helping her continue to feel well and making sure she retains her sense of independence and competency.

 So, the real change in the relationship is not the role reversal.  It is more related to that living 15 miles from each other thing. 

 When I was living 75 miles from my mother, it was easy to seem like a supportive, compliant daughter.  I talked to my mom on the phone a couple of times a week and saw her every three weeks or so. I’m sure she thought I was pretty close to perfect.   If I made a mistake or did something of which I thought my mother would disapprove, it was easy to just not mention it.  Once we started seeing each other four or five times a week, it was more difficult to keep things from her.  She knows when I buy something she thinks is frivolous.  She knows when I give a homeless person money just because I don’t want to deal with his annoyance if I refuse.  She knows when I agree to something that Max thinks we should do just because I’m tired of arguing.  She also sees me get snappish and sarcastic when I am tired or hungry.  I am pretty sure she knows now that I am nowhere near perfect.  Even though she only voices her opinions gently and occasionally, I know her well enough to know when she disapproves.  If I basked in the sunshine of her approval for 55 years before our move, I fear I am now in danger of sinking into the mire of her disapproval.  And I care way too much about that.

 It has been an uncomfortable transition.  When I first noticed the shift, I felt sad and empty.  I mourned that, in trying to do a good thing by taking on my mother’s caretaking, I seemed to have lost my relationship with her.  I knew my mother still loved me and appreciated who I am and who I try to be.  She probably has a much better grasp than I do on the fact that it is perfectly okay that she disagrees with some of my decisions. Still, I tended to become overcome by anxiety by the fact that my mother might not always agree with me. 

If I am not the “easy” daughter who is never a cause for concern, do I cease to be lovable?

Of course not.

As more time passed, I remembered that love is a verb.  And so, in some weird non-grammatical way, is “relationship.”  It moves and changes and grows.  As I went about my regular routine of helping my mother and trying to maximize the joy in her life, I realized that I was starting to enjoy the same closeness I used to share with her.  As my mom and I “relationshiped,” we surfed through the turbulence.  While we may not always pull in absolute tandem, we do respect where each other wants to go. 

I learned that parental disagreement, even disapproval, is not a catastrophe.  Growing up should teach a child that it is safe to disconnect from a parent and live her own life without losing the love of the parent.  This education happens to everyone.  It is just that, for most people, it happens at around age 15 or 16.  It took me until I was 56.

 As my mom and I continue to come face-to-face with disagreements and no catastrophe happens, I think our relationship is becoming more authentic again.  Perhaps even more authentic than it used to be.  We are both coming to terms with the fact that we are each complicated, real people and not just our respective roles- perfect daughter and perfect mother.  Or more likely, we are just redefining what our “perfect” means. 

So what do you think?  Have you taken on additional caretaking responsibilities?  Has it changed your relationship with your loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

As a side note, we had a bit of a “power surge” of new visitors this past week.  Welcome to all! I hope you enjoy enough to continue visiting, reading, and sharing.  I have been posting every Wednesday.  If you would like to be notified when there is new content, please send me an email at terriretirrement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂