Intimations of Mortality?

Published June 26, 2017 in Warp & Woof

Intimations of Mortality?
Random Thoughts on Approaching 70th Birthday
William Sundwick

It occurred to me recently. I hadn’t thought too much about it until now … I’m going to turn 70!

In my universe, that’s not even middle-aged any more. People have written that the boomer generation is the one that refuses to grow old. Perhaps. But, if I’m honest, I must admit I’m beginning to notice things … especially, compared to younger folks around me. Call them “intimations of mortality” (after Wordsworth).

Advancing years are clearly a mixed bag … there is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  First, the Good: I’ve been damned lucky throughout my life — financial security, good health, amazing 34-year marriage, great family. There is a possibility that a nursing home could wipe out the finances, but I’m not thinking of that now (maybe never?). And, I do feel compelled to follow my doctor’s orders, keep exercising, watch my diet.

But, whatever inconvenience “doctor’s orders” causes is more than compensated for by that “wisdom card,” which I can frequently play for younger friends and family. My wisdom regarding life’s dramas is a source of some pride, and (so far) seems to garner at least a convincingly polite acknowledgement from others. However, I do have a responsibility to share that wisdom. It’s what blogs are for! And, I think people respect me for it.

So, that’s the positive side of turning 70. There is a less enjoyable part, too. The Bad: mostly, my life is past … I’d have to live to 140 to say that it is less than half over! It’s not an issue of accomplishment — I’m happy with that. It’s more about feelings and memories. It’s about hopes and aspirations, about excitement. It’s about whether she thinks I’m sexy!

All these things are rapidly fading from reality, except in my mind. Memories, for sure. But, is there anything that can really excite me, anymore? Travel? Some new technology? Something that would make me say: “I’ve never done THAT before!” — or, “someday, I’m gonna’ ______” (fill in the blank). Unfortunately, my typical feeling these days is “been there, done that” or “I’ve seen this movie …”. And, the cost of self-knowledge is it becomes very difficult to fool (flatter) yourself.

Perhaps I spend too much time alone these days, more socializing could be a balm.

Then, there’s the Ugly: what lies ahead! Physical and mental limitations are likely to play an increasingly important role in my future. My own father, who knew he was likely to go quickly from heart disease, took some comfort from that knowledge … but, he was still an invalid in his last years, aware that he had lost much stamina, even mobility. My mother, on the other hand, had no idea what it would mean to slowly decline over nearly a decade, from the onset of Parkinsons, until her death. Fortunately, neither of them suffered the imprisonment of the mind that comes with Alzheimers … as my stepfather did (although he died only a week after my mom, we never knew whether he was aware of her death). The future could be grim, indeed.

The early signs, possibly only a couple years away, might include no longer being able to drive at night. That, right there, would be a major freedom-reducing development. You’d then have to be dependent on somebody else to drive you to evening engagements, or church meetings!

And, what about those memories? They sustain me now, help me cope with the fact that my life is more than half over. But, when they start disappearing? Recently, I was distressed when I couldn’t remember the brand of paint we’ve always used for home projects (Benjamin Moore) … drew a complete blank, had to go to closet where old paint cans are stored before I could come up with that everyday brand name. This block (more than a lapse, I think) is likely to become more common in the future. And, merely two years since retirement, I’ve already forgotten almost all the acronyms and IT functions that were so familiar to me in my day-to-day life only a short while ago.

I expect major tax headaches when I’m forced to sell my house – a good reason for postponing that action as long as possible. But, eventually, maintenance will become too much of a burden. It WILL be necessary, someday!

Then, the loneliness … who goes first? How would I deal with being a widower? How solid are my connections to my kids, and grandkids? (Only one of those, so far.) Continuous care? I’ve seen that, physician-assisted suicide might be preferable.

Where does all this leave me? It seems that, despite the anxiety associated with a possibly grim future, for now I’m doing well. This really is the best game in town. I want to play it for all it’s worth! If I trust my doctor, who keeps declaring me healthy, and continue to feel good after workouts at the gym, or neighborhood walks, why should I complain? If I can keep people’s attention by spreading words of wisdom, why not go for it?

In the meantime, I can always look with great pride at my progeny … they make it all worthwhile. And, I should be able to morph those intimations of mortality into paths toward immortality – if I can remain convinced that a good person is remembered longer than a not-so-good person!

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