Thursday, March 27, 2008

Badger Holes & Mortality

My beloved injured his ankle the other day stepping in a badger hole. His work involves agricultural field research for OSU. He was out working in one of their experiment plots preparing the ground to plant mustard seed. He had noticed some badger holes so he got a shovel and proceeded to fill them in. As he went to tamp down the loose dirt over one of the holes the ground gave way to the cavity below, causing my man's ankle to twist at a nasty angle. It's not broken, but it is severely sprained. Doctor says for him to stay off of it, keep putting ice on and to not plan on any sustained walking for at least three weeks.

We had big plans for hiking the hills around Wenatchee this weekend. We were also going to go out in search of some new geocache. There were all sorts of things we intended to do since I've got the day off Friday and could make a long weekend of it. Now he won't be able to do any of those things.

We are both disappointed. Beyond that, it has made me think a bit more about our mortality and the impact the 12 year age difference between us is likely to have on us over the course of the next decade.

Up until now it has been no big deal that he was further down the road of life's season's than I. But at age 62 already I have noticed he is beginning to slow down a bit and relish his "old man's naps" whenever he can. Watching him hobble around the house with a cane as a result of this injury served as a reminder that it may not be too many more years before health issues or limited mobility could become routine challenges. How I choose to respond if/when that happens remains to be seen.

As we've talked about what we would do this weekend it became clear I really only have three options:

1) don't do the things we had planned at all since he can't do them with me.
2) do those things by myself.
3) do them with someone else.

I'm not thrilled by any of those options. This man I am married to is my best pal, my hero, my cherished companion. Even the most mundane of activities is all the more fun when he's along for the ride. But the fact remains that he CAN'T go out hiking on this trip and won't be for some time. So I'm not entirely sure what I'll do. I'll take it as it comes and make the most of it however it plays out.

The main reason for the trip is to visit our dear friends, Chuck & Pat, who we have not seen in a couple years. They had been serving a mission in the Atalanta, GA temple and then after returning from that spent this past winter in Arizona. Finally they are home so we are very anxious to go spend some time catching up with them. I'm really looking forward to just sitting and visiting. Also there are several other friends we want to go by to see. As long as Larry is careful getting in and out of the car he certainly can still enjoy visiting.

Still, watching him hobble around with his poor gimp foot has made me pause and wonder--how will I handle it if somewhere down the road he becomes ill or infirm, dealing with pain, possible incontinence or loss of cognitive ability?

When I said "in sickness or in health" I very much meant it. I am committed to this marriage for the long haul no matter what challenges may confront us. But making those promises in my 20's when we both felt young and invincible just didn't bear the weight that facing up to them at 50 and 62 does.

Husbands of two of my long time friends have had strokes in the last year. Others I know are dealing with severe diabetes, heart failure, emphysema. As I get older more and more of my contemporaries are showing me the range of what it is like to lose hold of youth. This growing old stuff isn't for sissies.

Whether it is me or him who may face significant health challenges, chances are one or the other of us will. I hope with all my heart that I'll be able to face whatever challenges that come up for us with grace, compassion and humor.

For now I'll just bring him more ice, re-wrap his ace bandage and be grateful this particular injury was not too serious. But it has served as a bit of a wake up call for rapids down river yet to come. I hope I'm up for them.


Lei said...

The age difference between my inlaws is about the same... and I know my mother-in-law has the same fears. But you know, we age gracefully and with that I think must come a gradual acceptance of what must be!

Ruth D~ said...

I hear you. Valid concerns. But, you're only looking at smoke and mirrors. He has a sprained ankle, and quicker 'n you can say Jack Robinson, he'll be hiking beside you again. Still, I hear you. My husband is nine years older.

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