Aging can certainly take a toll on us when we let it, and men can find themselves becoming what’s known as a Grumpy old man. Last weekend I was looking after my father while my sister took a deserved break and went off to London to join the birthday celebrations of two of her friends. I had been looking forward to having this father son time all on our own. It was a rare occurrence.
Things didn’t go quite to plan. Unfortunately most of the time I was there he slept in his chair. And I do mean most of the time. I think there were two reasons for his drowsy state.
The first is that he is suffering from a lot of pain. He had done something to his hip and leg. Any movement was not only difficult but brought him severe agony. I tried to get him to allow me to take him to hospital but to no avail. So I suppose that sleeping is his way to escape from his pain.
The second reason is that he has lost his purpose. For a long time now he has had to spend most of his time caring for his wife, my mum. With her having been in hospital for the last 8 weeks he has become lost. Before she went in, his days were full of activities tending for my mum. In truth he was always running around doing things for her. He made her breakfast and lunch, teas and coffees, putting her on the hoist constantly to take her to the toilet, moving her slightly in her chair to make her more comfortable, brushing her hair and doing all sorts of things to tend for her. He was constantly on the go from the moment she woke at about 9am to her bedtime at about 8pm. Even through the night he would often be awoken by her calling and would rush to her to see what she needed.
Now he seems lost and day by day he has nothing to do but sleep. Even the company of his son couldn’t revitalise him. I don’t take it personally but of course this upsets me.
More so because this isn’t the dad I grew up knowing. He has changed dramatically over the last 5 years coinciding with the decline in my Mother through dementia. Before that my dad was the greatest example of how age is just a number. Physically and mentally you would have thought that he was at least 2o years younger than he was. He was always on the go, running my daughters everywhere almost a personal chauffeur, nipping to the shops, taking my mum places, and basically keeping his mind occupied. He would frequently be looking after my daughters particularly while both me and my wife were working hard in the gyms trying to save them, and often at night they’d talk about what he had made them and places he had taken them. His speciality was a one eyed sandwich and fried bread. Mmmm I miss them although best for my weight that I haven’t had them for more years than I can count.
His purpose that kept him young and going has been looking after others. Before that up to about the age of 70 his work kept him going. He was probably the best salesman I’ve ever known. Put him in front of anyone for 20 minutes he would have known their life story, and they would feel as though my dad’s a long term life friend.
But no more, he has become virtually a recluse. Happy to sit out the day in his armchair watching television, probably a program he has already seem a multitude of times.
I have for so long been the proudest of sons, seeing my dad age so slowly. At 80 he was still one of the most energetic, get up and go people I knew. His decline is so sad, and I think so avoidable.
The kids have noticed the changes in him. Too often he can be like a grumpy old man.
He just needed to find a purpose, a fulfilling one, something that brought him happiness, excitement, a reason for being, even as a distraction from his caring for my mother.
Here was a man who had always taken pride in himself, his appearance, his ability to help others. Yet recently his outer appearance has not mattered to him. I know he has struggled to come to terms with the aches, pains and indignities that come with age. I believe he is slightly angry that his life has become a daily routine of nothingness.
How could he avoid turning into a Grumpy Old Man?
He needed to shift his energy into doing something. Just not sit on the couch and do nothing.
Those who have one on to make the most of their later years “repositioned their intentions, read poetry, went fishing, formed a circle of friends, took on new hobbies, found places to volunteer and feel useful.” Michael Gurian
So to any of you out there, going down the path to become a grumpy old man place your time and energies into new, constructive pursuits.
I remember once when my dad had a passion for stamp collection. I wonder if he started doing it again whether it would revitalise him? Now there’s a thought. No more grumpy old man.
Hopefully I can point my dad in the right direction and bring a new lease of life to him. Find your pursuit and passion then love whatever it is you do.
Love you dad!!!