Betty J. Slade

 

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    Is there a doctor in the house?

    My son yelled out as he pulled and pushed at my compression stocking, "I need help."

    My Sweet Al, along with three dogs and a daughter, huddled around me, excited to participate in this undertaking. This was one of those times when being the center of attention was the last thing I wanted.

    With a bead of sweat pooling on his forehead, my son uttered a breathless command, "Hold up Mother's leg."

    My Sweet Al braced his good foot against the fireplace and held my ankle in the air. Meanwhile, my son was using all his strength to roll up a stocking. After a short break, he tackled the other leg. "If the doctor tells you to wear a full body-suit, I'm drawing the line."

    Maybe I should have drawn the line long before this moment. Slowing down and years away from fit, firm and fabulous after 50, a trip to a heart specialist gave me a wake-up call. There were many things said, but the one I heard, "You need to start wearing compression socks." Easy enough. Besides, how hard is it to wear socks every day?

    After my appointment, my son took me to find the socks. We stood in the ladies' section looking for anything in my foot size, to no avail. After several minutes, a saleswoman approached to see what we needed.

    My son said, "We need compression socks," then pointed to my ankles. The kind-hearted woman looked down then looked away and said to follow her. And just like that, we found ourselves standing in front of a rack labeled "Men's Big and Tall."

    A second saleswoman approached. After a bit of discussion and a great deal of staring at my ankles, we had what we had come in for. No, they weren't cute, soft to the touch or even a pretty shade of blues, but I had my new socks. My big, black, non-stretch socks.

    I have been presented with the offer of a lifetime - a trip to Israel next year. It has been a dream of mine for many, many years. There is only one problem: It's a walking trip, a lot of walking. I'm a writer, not an athlete. But in anticipation, this trip does give me an excuse to use the dusty treadmill upstairs.

    My physical therapist told me that I needed to work on my posture. Try as I may, my shoulders just don't square like they used to.

    My son's remedy: "Lift your chest, then separate."

    "Did I really just say what I think you said?"

    Yes, he did. but that doesn't even scratch the surface. My son has become a caregiver to me and my Sweet Al, which means he takes full liberty when it comes to speaking his mind. If our blood pressure is up, he threatens to ban salt in the house. Miss a minute on the treadmill and he will multiply that by 10 for the next round.

    After years of working out of the country, our son came home, eager to find out what the next chapter in his life would behold. And now he knows. We were in our 60s when he left, now we are approaching 80. A few things have changed. My Sweet Al can't lift a Volkswagen engine like he used to, and he just had cataract surgery on his rifle-scope eye. As for me, compression stockings by day, CPAP headgear by night.

    Recently, a friend of mine told me, "Before you are 50, your body takes care of you. After 50, you must take care of your body." Never have words seemed truer.

    Slowing down and with a few more aches and pains at sunrise, I made an appointment for a checkup. After a doctor's visit, I reported back to the family, "I'm fine."

    Our son said, "You are not fine. I'm not even a doctor and could give you a list of 10 things that are wrong with you. You are going back, and I am going with you."

    Back at the doctor's office, my son asked question after question. He requested this test and that, then asked for full access to all my charts and stats. I'm glad he did. There are some age and lifestyle issues that I need to address. My son's diagnosis? "Your blood test shows a concentration of butter and heavy cream." There are some things in life you just can't hide.

    When problems pop up early, we need to deal with them. If we don't we find ourselves where we can't function like we should. We put on a Band-Aid - buy a bigger size and make excuses about getting old.

    Final brushstroke: How many times did I walk the floor or rush my young children to the doctor? Never did I realize that I was modeling a behavior that would be used by those same children to provide for my care. While it is not likely that I will be walking around the house in a hospital gown any time soon, it sure is comforting to know that there is someone close by who is looking after my backside.

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