This coming week, we are off to the River. It is the first trip this year. Usually, we go up just when the ice is flowing off and the trees are just starting to wake up. But we did not this year. I need the River so much right now. Next Sunday, I will turn 60 and I cannot think of a better place to be. I am struggling mightily with this. I have all sorts of phobias and fears associated with aging. The alternative is not very enticing either. I am grateful for being alive this long.
The last couple of years have been a review of my past. I have been looking at things with the guidance of some wonderful people who have helped me to see things for what they are. I feel I have grown wiser and more balanced. I would not trade the experience for anything and yet, I never want to go through it again either.
But now, here is this number staring at me. I cannot avoid it. My mother did not see 60. She died at 59 from an aggressive lung cancer. I was 23. I thought she was not really old. I remember her mother, my Gram, when she was 65 and she WAS old. She had kinky grey hair, and boney gnarled fingers. Her eyes were sunken with dark circles. She had a tough life until her daughter, my Aunt took her in. My Aunt and Uncle were millionaires and they took great care of her. Gram died in her sleep at 92. My Aunt died bitter at 89. Her life was her husband and my Uncle died suddenly six years before and nothing was the same for her. She too, went in her sleep while in hospice care. Although my Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21, she survived with no re-occurrence. She and my Uncle had a great life, especially in retirement. I never saw my Aunt as being old.
My father lived to be 71. He went in pieces. He had several bypass surgeries and had his leg amputated when he was in his early 50’s. His side of the family has factor V Leiden which is a blood condition that causes clots. They did not know much about it back then. His mother, my Nana, had it too. He slowly built up plague on his tubing and that caused him to lose the leg and other plumbing issues. It is his illness that causes me great fear. I also have the condition. There is nothing to do about it accept take Coumadin. I was diagnosed with it in 2003 when they found five clots, one located almost in my heart. I was totally blessed and have written about the experience as they all miraculously disappeared. But every time I have cramping in my legs, which I have often, I think…crap…here it comes.
This past month I have been having some major health issues. I have been like the golden goose and passing kidney stones. This condition came about from being over medicated years ago. The drugs caused my right kidney to stop working. I got it functioning back to 41%. This past few months, I have been passing stones again after none for several years. This past week, Tuesday, I was pleased to give birth to triplets, one stone being almost an inch long. One of my dearest friends, who lacks sympathy, has decided I should polish the stones (I have over 30 ) and open up a jewelry shop and call it Pissery Barn. In reaction to having a slow moving collection of stones in my urinary plumbing, I ended up becoming toxic. My output slowed down and what was coming out was battery acid. Yes, I have an immensely high threshold for pain. This was coming on for a couple of weeks. I finally went to the doctor who immediately reacted with more drugs. These drugs, I think, have caused another reaction which is to thin my blood too much. Yesterday and the night before, I was in horrible pain with leg cramps. The solution was to simply stop the drugs and eat a salad.
But all this, after not having anything so critical was very scary and disheartening. And then…there is turning 60.
I know I have so much to live for. This is the best time of my life so far. I have something I never had before and that is feeling safe. I think the fear of being so ill suddenly shook my newly built foundation. I have so little faith in western medicine. It was just like I was just getting my head fixed and my spirit in line and then the body went out of alignment. I have heard though that this is not that unusual in the healing process. I am hopeful that this too shall pass. I will find solace in the beauty and peace of the River and I am sure it will help heal me.
What amuses me is that the age of 61 does not bother me a bit. Maybe I will just skip 60.
all photos @jdemeis 2014