Over the past decade, I have clung to the adage that “age is just a number.” While it may be so from varying perspectives, I was not personally prepared for the drastic changes that were to come. It is a humbling experience to recognize the decline in my quality of life. I totally ignored the signs and red flags, which were blurred by the instant gratification I was receiving from my musical performances. The remarkable thing is that my music career started more than 50 years ago, but actually blossomed in my 50’s. My career came to an abrupt halt when I turned 71. There’s that, and then the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. People cope with these things for years. It is unique to each individual. I just want to be functional and mobile mentally and physically. I also want to share what I learn with those who feel hopeless. There are friends encouraging me who have fought what I perceived as more devastating conditions, like Cancer and worse, and they survived. That is why I have not felt compelled to speak until now. I feel devastated, but believe it is time to face it, find a way to work around it, borrow a classy cuss word and move on to the next phase in God’s plan.
How Did I Get Here?
It seemed effortless, the singing and performing, so natural, as if born for it. The key to performing, for me, was loving music, all music, loving the way true vocalists like Whitney, Streisand, Aretha, Luther, Michael, Lord, I could go on. These icons would make the song their own and compel the audience to hang on every word, and like a curse, never forget the experience. I was so distracted by the Blessing of talent that I thought I was invincible, especially after surviving so many near tragedies on the road. The turning point was an accident that occurred in 2004, which would eventually result in personal loss that was far reaching and more personally devastating than I could have ever imagined.
I have this thing about age and counting medicine bottles on my bedside table. Two bottles with the onset of Type 2 Diabetes was bearable, but then they added two for the blood pressure, and now I am at seven. I hate it. I don’t really count the aspirin or the stool softener as medicine. Lord, that would make nine.
Walkers and Canes . . . not me
I never considered myself beautiful, maybe attractive, never vain. When I reached the point of needing the assistance of thick glasses, a walker and a cane, that was just too doggone much. My biggest mistake was not recognizing the importance of a preventive health regimen to prepare for the eventualities of aging. Yes, hard headed.
What could I have done better? A lot. For one, I could have been better prepared for the potential of financial burdens. My primary work was not very practical. You don’t really retire in the music business. You’re expected to die on stage. You have no health insurance, normally. You get used to opportunity knocking on the door just in time. Fortunately, I have always believed in having a plan B. I had creative skills that served me well, but I dropped the ball on this one.
I usually reinvent myself when “life happens.” I hate the thought of depending on others. I really want to remain independent, but I know that this time is different. I have accepted my diminishing capacities. It is time to put my house in order.
If Only I Knew Then . . . .
My life did not change overnight. I ignored the warning signals and procrastinated about proactive measures I should have taken before problems arose. Now suddenly Google is my best friend. I don’t make hasty decisions about my health or anything without researching it enough to ask good questions. I know there are millions or seniors who no longer feel relevant, but I have learned in a very short time that there are people out there who care and can help. Resources for Seniors has been most helpful. For veterans, the DAV Resource Guide is very useful. There are service organizations such as the Center for Volunteer Caregiving who offer personal assistance for those who don’t have family support available.
I envisioned singing and performing forever. That vision is evolving.