As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.
Walking With Jipso
She leads the way, confident of where we are going and I let her drag me along. So much has happened in the last year. While the puppy grew so did the unseen monster.
It looked like we were finally in a position financially to take on new responsibilities so I said, sure. Let’s get a dog. He had wanted a dog for years, needling me and nagging every chance he got. I relented and he picked out this little puppy; a Chihuahua-terrier mix.
I’m not a dog person. I love cats. They are so independent, self-confident and generally quiet. This dog is yappy. She whines a lot and can be so annoying. She’s incredibly needy and wants to be petted and played with all the time. We should have gotten an old dog that would like just sitting quietly in laps.
The Unseen Monster
We got little Jipso at 7 weeks old in November 2016. It was in April last year that we got the first clue about the unseen monster. One test after another proved that it wasn’t just an error. Then they told him it had already spread to his bones. The doctor was sympathetic and apologetic. This shouldn’t have happened to one so young. No one asks for this unseen monster. They started my husband on some medicinal therapy. He was feeling fine until they started treating him. He feels tired and even nauseous after each treatment once a month. He feels incredibly hot, then cold. But it doesn’t last more than a few days and we deal with the discomfort.
We never cried. We really haven’t spoken of it. It’s too fresh even now, 8 months into the battle. The monster was under control for a short time, but like all monsters, it has started to grow again.
This man who made me laugh, who had nothing but kind words for everyone, is now battling an unseen monster. It’s like two of the seven dwarfs now live at my house; cranky and grumpy. This little puppy, who should have been a joy, is now annoying the kind man who wanted a dog for so many years. He snaps at her, especially when she does loud doggy things, like barking at the neighbors. She doesn’t deserve the unseen monster either.
Limiting The Monster's Growth
It’s good to get out of the house and walk for a little while. I’m sure little Jipso is getting as much out of the fresh crisp air as I am. She goes slowly so she can sniff every random leaf we come across. As we get to the parking lot she stops. There is a stranger in the lot. It’s the maintenance man loading his truck. Jipso is terrified of strangers and turns around to go home, but I have an errand to run and we aren’t going back yet. I can’t return to the battleground just yet. Jipso reluctantly decides to obey me and give the offending stranger a wide berth.
Now they want us to go to another doctor. The ominous word is dropped: chemo. I know what that means. I know it is no cure. I know it is what they keep trying in hopes of prolonging the time. It is only to delay the monster from its final goal. The insidious monster is going to eventually win. They made that clear. They gave us a couple of years… maybe.
What about this timid dog? What about me? I can’t even ask these questions because it’s so selfish. Not in the middle of a battle do you start asking about the what-ifs. Not now. For now, we check the mail and turn around to go home.
I remember when a brain tumor took my father from my mother. She was so strong and phlegmatic. She held it all in and told us not to come around if we were not going to be upbeat and cheerful. He doesn’t need to see us blubbering around him, she told us. If you have to cry, do that at home before you come. She was serious. So we came around and made him laugh, then went home to dissolved into tears. On the night that he passed, we were all there. We prayed, sang hymns, talked to him, held his hand and said goodbye. Sometime after 2 a.m., he was gone. That’s when my mother threw herself on his body and cried like a baby. She had held it in so long that when it finally came out, it came out in a torrential downpour. Her mom had to pull her off him. It is a scene that is burned in my memory. Will I be like that?
Jipso takes another wide path to circumnavigate the maintenance man’s sphere. If only we could do that with the monster. Just go around it like a pothole, a dip in the road to be avoided. If only the monster wasn’t so invisible. Where is Saint George when you need him? Someone needs to slay this monster. Someone needs to do something soon.
My honey is so private that he hasn’t even told his family yet, except for his mother. His children are going to be mad when they find out that he has kept this monster to himself all this time. I don’t blame them. I’m surprised he let me know. It is such a private thing to him. Even to his mother, he made it sound like it’s nothing and the doctors are treating it. I don’t think she has a clue how serious this monster is.
Never Enough Time
I pick up the puppy and hold her a few minutes. I’m not sure what I’m feeling at all. Am I lonely? Am I scared? Am I angry? Am I just cold? Yes. All those and much more. My insides hurt from holding it all in for so long. All I can do is love him and overlook the grumpy days. I know he wants to throw things. I sure do. I know he doesn’t want to face this. I don’t either. He is the sweetest, kindest, most empathetic man I know. He has this uncanny ability to draw people in and make them feel safe, to the point that perfect strangers want to share their life story with him. He’s clever and creative. What if the monster takes him from me? What will I ever do without him?
No, I can’t think about that now. Like Scarlet, I’ll think about that tomorrow. Today, I need to put the dog down and get back home to the battleground where my honey is making a stand, alone. He needs me, so I’m there. I’d do anything for him. His is my life. There just aren’t enough words. There is never enough time. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I know I will spend it with him.