Angry Old Men
Why are old men always so grumpy? I remember asking this question many years ago, and now that I live in that world, I can offer an answer. However, I don't believe there is a single; one size fits all, answer. There may be as many reasons as there are old men, but I will offer a few.
Man number one worked hard his whole life, remained faithful to his wife, and raised three kids putting two of them through college. Needless to say, he is a very proud man. Four months before he could retire with a full benefit package, life jumps up and slaps him square in the face. One minute he is at work, on lunch break, and the next thing he knows, he is in an ambulance trying to tell some EMT kid to leave him alone.
After a few days in the hospital, he is sent home to adjust to a life after stroke. In this life, he cannot walk and is forced to use a wheelchair but has to be pushed everywhere because he also lost the use of one arm. He can't complain though, at least not so anyone can understand, because one side of his mouth droops and is, for the most part, useless. The tongue muscles are also affected to further complicate successful communication as well as creating eating and swallowing difficulties. Getting into or out of bed, dressing or undressing, bathing, toileting, and a number of other normal activities of daily living, can no longer be done independently. In less than one second, he had gone from fiercely independent to calmly dependant.
His wife tries to take care of him, but their home is not designed for wheelchair use and there are some doors he cannot fit through---the bathroom being the most important one. She continues trying, doing her best, but alas, it simply is not good enough and finally she is forced to ask their kids for help. All three said basically the same thing; they could not afford miss work to physically help, but they could help some financially.
Rallying the family's resources, they are able to hire a person to help with his daily living needs. All goes well at first, but then she starts missing things. She thinks she is simply misplacing or forgetting where she put these things, but eventuality, the truth surfaces. Unfortunately, not before several hundred dollars worth of items are gone forever, and some were irreplaceable family heirlooms.
Not one to give up easily, she hires another person, but this one does not show up for work often. Determined to keep her husband at home with her, she tries a third person. This time she goes through a home-health agency and pays a higher per-hour rate expecting to get a qualified person. What she got was a middle-aged teenybopper with an alcohol problem.
Being a loving, caring, faithful wife, she continues doing the best that she can alone. Now, less than a year after the stroke, her health is failing both physically and mentally. Their family doctor sees it and explains there is no other recourse; a long-term care facility is necessary. She is devastated and believes herself to be a failure, both as a wife and as a caregiver.
He is starting the final chapter in his book of life, in a place he does not know, and with people he does not trust. He feels abandoned, thrown away like last weeks newspaper after being used to line the litter box. Not by his wife, he knows she did her best, but by his ungrateful kids. The same ones he had worked all the overtime to provide for, to pay for their first car, to educate them for a good start in life, and to help buy their first homes. Why would they do this to him?
His room is located near the door used by the mortuaries to pick up the recently deceased. He sees every body that rolls past on the old gurney with one squeaky wheel, which is from one to three per day. He lay in the old-style, hand-crank, hospital bed, and understands that every person there is awaiting their turn to die. This forces him to face, and accept, his own mortality.
Ok, let's see:
- His pride suffers a very hard blow (looses some)
- He looses his main retirement package by four months
- He looses his independence
- He looses his home
- He has destroyed his wife's self-esteem
- He feels abandoned
- He is forced to rely on people he does not know or trust
- He looses the remainder of his pride
- He is forced to face his own mortality
Yep, he might be angry