|Norma Jean on the left, me on the right|
The training was the final step to becoming a certified Advance Care Planning facilitator for the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA). It was very intense, with several role-playing scenarios (never one of my favorite things, although it's a valuable tool to practice and gain feedback). A great deal was covered and I became familiar with the other women, who will become valued friends in the future, I have no doubt. Many of them are in the health care profession, nurses and counselors; most are donating their time to WAHA while still working full- or part time. I planned to write about yesterday's experience today.
But the other competing storyline has won out: the one about my sister Norma Jean and her latest trial. The lower part of that lead-in picture was taken when I visited her last November. We had a great time and I fully expected to be visiting her again sooner, rather than later, but then life got in the way and I decided against the disruption of travel. The top part of the picture was taken more than six decades ago, on an Easter Sunday in the late 1940s. I know it's Easter because of our matching dresses that Mama probably made for us.
If you've been following this blog for any time at all, you know that I am close to my sister Norma Jean and that we both are rather dedicated exercisers. She swims more than a mile five or six days a week, does power walks around her retirement community, and golfs several times a week. She wears a Fitbit to track her daily progress. I also walk with a group on Saturdays, work out at the gym four days a week and spend all day Thursday hiking with the Senior Trailblazers. She probably gets more exercise than I do, because those more than hour-long swims really burn up the calories.
In mid-January, she was on one of those power walks when she fell, catching her toe on a curb and went down, scraping her knee and breaking her fall with her left hand. She limped home and dressed her knee but realized that her left hand was hurting pretty badly and she should have it checked out at the local Urgent Care clinic. An x-ray confirmed that she had broken the long bone that goes from her little finger to her wrist. This is called a "boxer's fracture" and needs to be set in a cast. However, they don't do that at Urgent Care and told her to see her doctor and sent her home with a splint in the meantime. Unfortunately she could not use that hand at all in that splint, and she had to wait NINE DAYS to get a cast on the hand.
|Fingers are cast downward|
So this is why that storyline won out: I cannot help but imagine myself in the same position of suddenly being unable to do anything after having been active for so many years. How does one cope? And it could happen in the blink of an eye, as it did with Norma Jean. But it is more than just a month of time out of her life: it will take a long time for her to recover back to her original fitness level. There's going to be a period of rehab, of learning to stretch those muscles and make her hand work right again, and who knows how long that will take. Getting that cast off will mean she can at least walk again, and I picture her like a racehorse champing at the bit, waiting for the release so she can charge ahead and finally stretch her legs.
It has made me realize I need to develop for myself some kind of backup plan in case something like this happens to me. You can only read so many books, watch so many shows on TV, and one needs some kind of other stimulation for the body and mind. I figure asking my readers what YOU would do if this happened to you is one way to start formulating a plan.
I learned recently that the brain actually uses as much as twenty percent of the body's energy, so maybe it would be a time one could learn to speak another language, learn calculus or some other taxing mental exercise. Right? Maybe it would be the opportunity to write a book, record my memoirs or some other such activity. It's a mystery as to how I would handle what she's going through right now.
But as I titled this post "Things Change," it dovetails into what I learned yesterday. It is not often that we sit down and think about the fact that as we age, our abilities to do what we always have done begin to decline. One of the scenarios that we thought about often yesterday is how to help people make decisions now in the event that they are incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. Using the scenario of a car accident or a fall that renders a person unconscious means that our loved ones must decide how to proceed if, for example, the doctors said there is little chance that I would ever regain the ability to know who I am or who I am with.
Thinking about what "living well" means to me, I realize that I need to be able to be outdoors, to see the sunrise, to visit with my friends, laugh and share the trials and tribulations of life with my loved ones. To maintain the ability to reason and ponder the meaning of life, that's very important to me. That means I need a functioning brain, even if the rest of me declines until I'm forced to become sedentary. It's something I'm giving a great deal of thought, planning ahead for a possible future that doesn't look much like my present-day lifestyle. Although my mind might wander for awhile to other realms, it keeps coming back to this question.
Oh, and before I forget: a friend sent me a link to this twenty-year-old New Yorker story, and it is so profound that I really need to share it with as many people as possible. Jo Ann Beard, the author, has captured both inevitable decline and change, as well as a sudden shock to the system, all in one elegantly written piece. You won't be sorry you spent the time to read it (it's long).
And, on that note, I realize that it's not even 7:00am on a Sunday morning and my post is just about finished. The only thing I need to do is look up from my keyboard and take in my familiar surroundings. Is that rain I hear outside? It wouldn't be unusual. My partner is gently snoring next to me, that familiar and cherished sound as he continues to sleep as I sit next to him, the light from the screen casting a soft glow on my face as I tap away, glad to have written this Sunday morning, and giving thanks that I've still got a functioning brain, filled with excitement for a brand new day.
I hope wherever this day takes you, either on great adventures or small ones, that it will be with a smile. Gratitude fills me and spills out onto the screen. If you're quick, you can grab some of it for yourself. Be well until we meet again next week.