“Old Age Does Not Arrive Alone”

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That’s a saying in Spanish my dad quotes with some frequency. He has injured his knee, though we don’t really know how. All we know is he woke up in considerable pain day before yesterday and that knee is swollen and painful. Tomorrow more than likely we will have to go get it seen by a doctor. It is particularly worrisome because his other leg is the one really affected by his old back problems–it’s the one that when he gets tired, his foot drags. With both legs compromised, he is very unsteady on his feet.

We were going to meet his old class ‘compis’–his old schoolmates today, at a nice restaurant in Vaxholm. Earlier this week, we found out that one of them, Einar, had been hospitalized after a heart attack. Hans had to bow out because he is still recovering from heart and back surgeries and had had a setback this weekend. But Arne and his wife, Ulla Britta, and Barbro, agreed to come to our cottage for a ‘ficka’–a little afternoon snack. Arne and his wife drove 2 hours to catch a ferry and come on the island. Barbro took buses and then walked for about 1 kilometer. She arrived so early that she stopped along the way to pick a bag of blueberries for us.

In your mid to late eighties, even a year makes a difference. I saw that in all of them. I watched them linger over the coffee, knowing they needed to call it a day so my dad could put his leg up, so Barbro could catch her bus, so Arne and Ulla Britt could drive all the way back to Uppsala. But when you know you’ve come to an end, a real, a final end. When you know this is the last good bye, it is hard not to try to get one more story, one last laugh, one final moment of companionable silence that too quickly will slip into absence.

Since my dad hurt his knee 2 days ago, I have been having a hard time of it. There is little for me to do except tend to him. I go out and bike and walk each day but I would give anything to be able to share this beautiful place rather than explore on my own. Helping Dad carry his grief by myself has been lonely work. My older brother and my younger brother will spend their time here with their life companions and I watched how my older brother was able to draw strength from his partner during their visit. I imagine it will be the same with Nils and Laura. It is a relief that they and my niece arrive tomorrow afternoon, regardless of the “stuff” between my brother and me.

I took some pictures this afternoon. Even in the midst of the blues, I am struck by how beautiful these old folks are–and how dear. It is a privilege not to be taken lightly to be a part of this long good bye.

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Arne

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Barbro

2 thoughts on ““Old Age Does Not Arrive Alone”

  1. Hehe, with some spice to humor up your blues, I’ll catch you up on some other similar sayings.
    Now we also say: “Me dio la PV (Puta Vejez)”.
    Another one: “Me dio la enfermedad del CONDOR, Con dolor aqui, Con dolor aca.”
    I realize when we get together and many of you come along with their old folks, that my Mom and Dad were fairly mature (over their 30s) when they got married. Something I suppose was unusual for their time. My Dad passed away when he was 73, many years ago. I only have to read the news to remember the day, date, and hour. He and Pablo Escobar died just minutes away from each other. My Mom died a ripe 87, two years ago. I had the dubious honor: both died in my arms, since both my sisters live abroad.

    • Me encantan esos dos dichos y a mi papi le van a encantar también–¡gracias! And what a bitter-sweet honor to have been with both your parents when they died. Thank you for this comment that has really lifted my spirits.

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