This I Believe

Thomas - Lenox, Massachusetts
Entered on August 7, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, love

This I Believe

When I was a kid I remember that my father used to say that having your health is everything. When we are young statements like this don’t mean much. Having your health at twelve meant not having a cold or diarrhea.

My father’s mother died when she was forty-seven. From the perspective of a child, forty-seven is pretty old. Still, my siblings and I always knew that it was a sore point with my father and while he could speak about it, the unspoken rule was that we could not. We talked around my grandmother if we talked about her at all.

My mother’s father died when he was sixty just a few years later. My Mother didn’t limit talk about her father in the same way that my father limited talked about his mother but we all were told that it was too young to die. Sixty! Man, isn’t that old?

As a teenager or even when I was in my twenties, I didn’t really have to face death. Death didn’t really affect me until my grandfather died in my early thirties. Until then, I had really gotten away clean.

As I approached middle age good health took on more significance especially as I started to see people my own age die. Friends and acquaintances died for various reasons over the next couple of decades and good health started to take on a different meaning.

In the middle of the night after several attempts to wake us I got the call: my mother was ill. At Sixty-One and for no obvious reason my father was woken by my mother having a seizure from a cerebral hemorrhage. After a week I will never forget and two operations to try and save her my mother as I remember her disappeared. She was replaced by someone with most of my mother’s memories but no ability to eat, walk or go to the toilet on her own: she is almost completely paralyzed.

My father gave up taking care of anything else when my mother got sick. He stopped paying bills and eventually I had to take over for him. All his energy went into taking care of my mother. After 6 months and on the day Mom was to be moved from the hospital to a nursing home, my father was stricken at home with ruptured Aortic Aneurisms. He was all but dead in the E.R. and nobody expected him to make it. He survived his ordeal by some miracle that, at the time, neither I nor the doctors understood.

After nearly ten years my mother’s condition hasn’t changed very much. She is completely at the mercy of state-funded for profit health care providers. You learn to ignore the lies about what good hands she will be in. Profit and the revolving door at nursing homes guarantees that, except for a few angels, my mother’s care will be marginal.

Since his ordeal, my father has been in and out of the hospital and has suffered physically and mentally for all that he and my mother have gone through. Through it all they have only slept apart. In fact, unless he was in the hospital himself or there was a heavy snow storm, my father has been with my mother practically every day since she became ill. He is by her side during the day usually only leaving for a chance to eat and rest. When he was in the hospital the only thing he wanted was to leave to be with Mom. He worried about the care she would get and he worried that she would worry about him.

Because of my mother and father, I believe in the power of love. Over the last tens years I have also learned that, if you have your health, you have everything.