"Iím not scared of death.
I just donít want to be there when it happens..."
Ex-Sergeant and Grandfather, John W. Lee
How My Grandpa Copes With The Aging Process
Mr. John W. Lee, my grandfather, is 76 years old.
In my efforts to understand the aging process better, I interviewed grandpa, nickname "Jim" to his friends, who is, at this time, 76 years old.
Jim has always been active. He has enjoyed sports, bowling, and riding horses all his life and was always on the go. He trained dogs and horses for many years, even after his medical retirement, and still does volunteer work with military hospital patients.
Jim was in the Air Force for 26 years, through 3 wars: World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1966, Jim was at work and passed out, falling to the floor in front of his boss. That is when Jim was forced to leave the Armed Forces due to a bad heart.
During the interview Jim was alert, had a unique sense of humor, and was thoughtful of his answers. When told that I needed to do an interview for Geriatrics class, he quiped, "Ope, thatíd be me!"
When asked how he viewed himself from then to now, as a child and as a man, he explained that when he looks back at himself as a young man, it doesnít seem like him, but a different person altogether.
Jim says the best years of his life in the physical sense was when he was in his 40's. He really started feeling the affects of aging on his body around the age of 50.
I was curious to know what his outlook was on life after death. He proceeded to talk about a specific time in his life when he had had an out of body experience. "I was riding in my truck coming back from a trip with my dog, Susie. I knew that we were nearly home but I was feeling kind of bad. Next thing you know I was floating above my body. There was a light that was very bright. When people talk about seeing a bright light during their near death experience, it is very real and true."
He said that, during the experience, all his physical aches and pains were gone. Jim said that he can see now that passing could be very very good. "Itís not that Iím looking forward to death; I just understand that it is a part of life and I accept it. No, Iím not afraid of death: I just donít want to be there when it happens!" (It was neat to know and remember that my grandpa has a good sense of humor.)
Physically, Jim says that he has lost a quarter inch from the 6 foot 2 inches heís been all his adult life: He now measures 6"1 3/4 inches. He says with a grin, "Thatís not good because now I have to use a stepping stool to get on a horse."
Some of the things that bother Jim about getting old are his loss of hearing and his constant aches and pains. He suffers annoying pain in his hips, knees, and lower back. " My sight is worse, too," he adds. And when he is cutting down trees, he finds it frustrating because he has to quit working earlier than he did when he was younger. He gets exhausted faster, he gets short of breath, and says it sometimes makes him mad.
Jim Lee has had numerous skin cancers on his nose. He said that most of them have been Basel cell carcinoma, but a few have been melanoma cancer. Right now he is waiting for the biopsy results from the last sample the doctor collected.
Jim says that he first got skin cancer in 1964. At first he didnít think anything of what he took to be a mole on his nose. A man that he knew in the medical field spotted the affected area and told him to go to the doctor, because that is the only way Jim could be sure if it was skin cancer or not. It was cancerous and during the 25 years since the first biopsy, he has had to have growths removed from the same spot several times.
Old folks are categorized as frail, age appropriate, or robust. Knowing my grandpa, I would call him very robust, although Jim, on the other hand, looks at himself as age appropriate, but a bit more active than some people his age. He doesnít need help doing things or getting around at all, yet the physical body does limit his activities. As stated, he hasnít got the endurance and stamina of his youth.
Everyday he has to remember to take lots of pills. His heart, cholesterol, and blood pressure are monitored by his doctors. Jim includes this as a downside of growing old.
Jimís contraindications to massage therapy, according to the paper called "Geriatric Massage " by Dietrich Miesler, would be his severe heart condition, but there is many possible benefits he could get from the application of proper techniques. So, the decision to massage or not must be weighed by risks and benefits and a doctor's advise.
I wouldnít think the heart would be a problem to massage, because it seems like the relaxation response would tend to reduce stress overall, and relax the heart as well. But since massage does alter the flow of blood to the heart, consultation with his physician would be necessary.
Massage therapy probably would not cure his Ďaches and painsí because most of it is caused by arthritis, but I believe massage therapy could temporarily reduce his pain, and might help his posture. Indications for massage therapy would be his poor circulation due to diabetes, because message therapy does improve circulation.
If he were my client, I would advise gentle, ongoing message in half hour sessions, 2-3 times a week, the technique to be determined in conjunction with advise from his physician.
I got the impression that grandpa is happy with what he has accomplished in his lifetime. He is glad to have fought for his country, not once, but three times. He says he does not regret his part in the wars.
I love my grandpa and am glad to have had this chance to get to know a little more about him. It was a conversation with a person that I will remember for a long, long time.
Jim Lee, Now Aged 79.
In late June of this year, my grandpa had a devastating stroke that left him nearly totally paralyzed, unable to speak, or even eat without choking. One arm didn't function at all, his hips hurt so bad he would cry out in pain, and he lost a lot of weight. His heartbeat was deadly irregular.
He looked bad and felt worse.
He had a choice to give it up or allow doctors to put a pacemaker in and accept the challenge of learning to function again.
He chose life.
Like many stroke patients, "Jim", who never cussed, began to yell swear words that everybody could clearly understand. When he was in pain or wanted something we couldn't understand, he was shocking to listen to. He cried a lot too, something we'd never seen grandpa do before.
Every time he seemed to get a bit better, he'd have a relapse or catch pneumonia and get weaker.
It seemed impossible that he would ever get well enough to go home...
But he kept trying, like the soldier he's always been.
In these five months, he has come a long way.
His enormous efforts with his physical therapy has enabled him to sit up in a wheelchair, walk haltingly with a walker, and speak in a mostly understandable fashion to those around him.
He can eat carefully, in between his bouts with pneumonia, when he has to have the feeding tube.
But the greatest thing these months have given all of us is the chance to make amends, to restore the Love of family, and draw closer than we've ever been before.
Grandpa still has his sense of humor, intelligence, and that familiar driving desire to overcome all obstacles. We pray that one day soon he will get to return to his beloved home.
UPDATE SUMMER 2003! Grandpa returned to the home he loves. He is still mostly in the wheelchair and is fed through a tube, but his sense of humor is still intact and the beautiful scenery around him makes his life much more peaceful.
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