Whose Health is Better?

Who’s Health is better? Mine or my grandparents? 

I’m lucky to have three of my four grandparents still alive. My mom’s parents both turned 80 this year. They watched my brother and I after school for years and we remain very close to them. Last year they moved in with my parents as their large house, built in the Civil War era, was too much for them to keep up.

My grandfather on my dad’s side died a few years ago of a stroke and was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery due to his service WWII. Over the 4th of July we celebrated my dad’s mother’s 90th birthday with a large family reunion. She watches the Orioles baseball game every night and knows the birthdays of her 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

All of my grandparents are still mentally sharp, for the most part. This summer I’ve spent a good amount of time with all of them. I’ve come to realize that their health needs and issues really aren’t that different than mine. We may not suffer from the same illnesses, but side effects and energy levels are very similar.

My 80-year old Grandma sleeps in late and is a night owl, like me. She knows she can call or text me after 10pm because we keep the same hours (yes, she texts!). We also have a similar nap schedule. She has regular doctor visits to get cortisone shots in her gnarled, arthritic hands. I get regular shots, too, of Botox to help keep my gnarled brain under control. Oddly enough, in a few weeks I will have the same gastro-intestinal procedure done that she had completed last summer.

My 90-year old MawMaw recently had to stay overnight in the hospital after having an allergic reaction to medication she’d been on for years. I’ve had that happen to me too. My hair fell out after years of being on the same medication. She doesn’t drive anymore and relies on my aunt for trips to the store and pharmacy. Although I can drive, I rely on my boyfriend or roommates to help me when I don’t trust myself driving.

My remaining grandfather and I have matching scars down the middle of our chests, which is a rite of passage for those who belong to the “Zipper Club.” I got mine at age 4 during open heart surgery to repair two holes in my heart. He got his 15 years ago for a triple bypass surgery.

However, Grandpa’s been quite ill this year. Bladder cancer, a blood infection and a recent heart attack have not been kind on him. You wouldn’t really know it by talking to him. He’s upbeat yet cantakerous as usual. I spent the good part of three weeks visiting him in the hospital last month. Due to his multiple issues, he was moved to a hospital in DC from WV.  The hospital was minutes from my house which made it easy to check in on him regularly. He told me it was nice to have me there because I understand the hospital jargon and can ask the right questions.

While in the hospital, Grandpa became tired out so quickly from all the doctors and nurses in and out of his room all day long. His only job was to lay there and get rest, but all the commotion was exhausting. I know exactly what it’s like to not do anything, yet feel like you just completed a marathon. He’s home now and working hard with physical therapy to get better. I was honored to be able to take care of him, because it’s usually my family that takes care of ME.

In an odd way, I think all my grandparents feel like they can relate to my Chronic Migraines, even though none have ever suffered from them. I can understand how they can get tired out so quickly. I don’t have to apologize when I can’t make it to a family function. Sometimes their physical ailments limit their ability to socialize too. The family understands when any of us need to take a break and go lie down. After a family outing, we can all commiserate on how many days it took us to recover from all the excitement.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that my health is really not much better than my grandparents. I chuckle when the elderly man in my building passes me walking on the street, but sometimes I just need to take it slow and steady to maintain my stamina. I get to appreciate the beauty in nature, the interesting architecture and the great people watching as I stroll to post office. Life happens so fast. I do everything I can to try to manage my illness so I can keep up and enjoy the good days. I also now have the wisdom to know that it’s ok to slow down if it means that I can ward off a Migraine. So I guess it’s not so bad that my grandparents and I have a mutual understanding of our physical ailments. We are able to support each other in our health issues when no one else really “gets” it.

 

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