"Hope I Die Before I Get Old"

Monday, November 21, 2011

old_coupleI don’t.  I hope I die before I feel too old, yes.  Readers of my generation may recognize The Who’s lyrics.  That one isn’t routinely piped into our downtown office building lobby.  Maybe it will serve as Muzak in our nursing homes in 2050.   But waiting for the elevator the other day, here in 2011, I did hear this one of Simon & Garfunkel’s:  “A good day ain’t got no rain.  A bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might’ve been.”  (Yeah, I had thought it was “ain’t got no pain,” too.  But we’re in Northeast Ohio during the wettest year in several generations.  So what’s the difference.)

But this post is not just about us, the already careworn.  Still raising some family members while laying others to rest.  Or about all the elders out there in the rain.  My mind is actually on my offspring today, after a weekend filled with high-school plays and college applications and cast parties.  Here is a poem my eldest wrote:

Today, at a time that used to be put aside
for my daily morning walk
I remember my father
and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
that were served with milk
and I wonder
Why a broken hip?
I listened to my parents
I ate all my vegetables
in fact, I chose to eat them
Yet I am still in a wheelchair
In the end
I’m in the same nursing home as that other girl
Who ate chocolate for lunch.

We talk about this conundrum in our family sometimes.  In our era, in our culture, in our class, we know a lot and can always learn more about healthy choices and exercise and abstinence designed for those who want to live to be 100.  But who really does?  Since no one can promise you you’ll be able to see, or hear, or bend, or yell, or pee by then….  At the other end of the spectrum, over-indulging in everything does not guarantee a quick, painless getaway when you’re ready, either. Me, I prefer to consider whether my choices today might help me be my best self tomorrow, and that’s far enough into the future for me.

I think about our elders.  (A few in particular, and then that whole generation.)  Today, I’m focused on the young people and how they view our elders.  How I’m modeling, teaching them to view our elders.  How they might view me someday.  In the past, not only were the grandparents not around for as many years as they often are now to begin with, and not only were women at home more routinely than they are now to take care of them, but what else was there to do in the evenings other than sing and sew or whittle and stoke the fire?  Ah, listen to the stories of our revered elders, of course.  A genuine treat.  Not just the stories.  But having a real, live older person around to tell them! Versus now.  Hm.  Much as I hope my daughters will pop in on this particular elder if I don’t die before I get old, I know that by then, elders will be a dime a dozen.  If we still have dimes.

That’s why I’m telling all my stories now, as I go along.  Just in case.

Yes, it is neat for my kids, visiting their grandmother at the assisted living residence, to witness the demonstration of how the talking calendar/clock from the vision agency works.  It’s a novelty, and I am grateful for a safe subject to talk about (okay, YOU try talking honestly about your life for more than four minutes without touching on any stressful subjects or controversial topics…).  But does she really care whether it’s Tuesday the 26th or not, whether it’s 8:30 a.m. or 8:30 p.m.?  I assure the kids that it’s a form of independence, to spare Grandma-Mom the hassle of having to ask someone what day it is or what time it is. Or rather find someone to ask. Or find someone to.  Or find someone.  Or find.  Or.

Or not.

- Posted by Mary McKee

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