Intimations of Mortality from the Living Room Floor

You can end up alone and old in a lot of ways. My way was simply that I had no kids, and I was never able to make a long term relationship work. I honestly didn’t want kids, so when it happened that I didn’t have any, that was OK with me. As for the LTR? I don’t know. That’s a lie. I do know. I didn’t learn the skills when I could have, should have. Instead I learned how to survive in the family I was born into. Ironically, that family did not survive me. So, in my case it’s not just that I don’t have a husband and kids, I don’t have siblings. When you’re in my position and have medical problems, there are systems designed to help you out. Yet, somehow, I feel that I failed. I sense that people — medical people — speak to me of these systems in whispers, though they probably do not. Innocent questions sound like accusations, “Do you have someone to take care of you when you go home?” (“Otherwise you’re a loser.”)

But… It doesn’t matter. Many people are going to survive everyone. My grandmother, in her 90s, told me how hard it was to be the last one among her friends. There were no people left in the world with whom she could share the memories of HER life. She lived with her daughter — an arrangement that was good for both of them — and had lots of contact with grand and great-grandkids, but we had not shared her young days with her. The life we shared with her was OUR lives, not hers.

My little fall and minor rib injury this weekend prompted care from the people around me ❤ and from friends at a distance, one of whom was worried that if something happened to me she couldn’t get to me fast enough to help.

It haunted my sleep. I might live in Heaven, but Heaven is a not place where I can sell my house and make any money. I am going to stay here for the duration. And where would I go? I have a really small income.  But in my dreams, I headed north looking for an affordable home closer to friends. I kept trying to wake up, but there was no way that was happening. I thought (in my dream) that I am really old and frail. I thought, “No, I’m not. But I look that way because I have white hair and I’m small. People who haven’t known me longer than five years might think I’ve shrunk.” Still, I acknowledged that my will and spirit are much younger than my body. I thought about attempting to reconcile the two, and saw quickly which has the upper hand. It’s the one with the actual hand (ha ha).

This morning I’ve decided this isn’t worth thinking about. Dusty is older than I am and HE’S not thinking about it. I’d be astonished if he did!

An homage to my dad who did not get to live long enough to deliberate these problems or dream these nightmares, but who was right in giving me the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a lesson in what matters in life.

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!

Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so wisely–they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

(The whole poem is here)

31 thoughts on “Intimations of Mortality from the Living Room Floor

  1. Good Old Omar. He always had SOMETHING to say. Most of the rest of us are one partner, friend, or family member away from exactly where you are … and like you, tied to a home we can’t easily afford but where else would we go? For good or ill, life was easier for the aged when families hung together like old bunches of grapes on the vine. Now, I think many — if not most of us — are quite alone from fairly early on. I think we don’t much notice it until our health begins to slide and suddenly, what was “no big deal” is a bigger deal.

    As Bill Belichick says: “It is what it is.” Keep hanging in there. Not like you really have a choice anyway,

  2. A lovely homage, Martha. Long before I gratefully and finally let go of my faith, I used to pray frequently and fervently to live to be 1,000 and to keep my physical and intellectual health intact, just so I could see what’s to come HERE where we live. And though my aging body almost daily reminds me that I’m not immortal, I have a hard time relinquishing that hope. As you said, though, it’s not worth thinking about. I am content just to enjoy each day. I’m happy today that you’re feeling well enough to share with us!

    • Thank you, Denny! Yeah — I’ve discovered that the ONE thing that bothers me about all this is that it interrupts (challenges?) my ability to enjoy each day. There the resolution is to, in defiance, enjoy it ANYWAY!!! 🙂

  3. Wonderful post. What you describe is why I finally said to my husband that we could not move to Portugal, away from children and grandchildren, alone here with no one but each other if one is sick. It was what worried our kids. But, I need to be near our family, to experience the highs and lows of my children and grandchildren, and for them to know that in the time I am still present on earth, I am available. What I truly wish for today was the there was still a respect and reverence for older people. I loved sitting at the feet of the older ones and hearing their stories, with awe and pride, and their lessons. Saved me some pain. Feel better. Regina

    • Thank you! Sometimes, honestly, I feel a little sorry for myself — spouseless, childless, sibling-less — but then I remember WHY I made the choices I made (except for the sibling) and I’m OK with my side of things. And, with spouse and children there’s no guarantee they’ll be there or even like you. Life has so many unknowns and variables. I also loved listening and talking to my grandmother. I liked her very much and we were friends. I hope those relationships still exist today; I think they do. My mother’s sisters, also. I loved them very much and what I learned from them I can never repay. ❤

  4. Wise words and so true. One day you are no longer the fit young lady that could do it all. Your thoughts travel on a different rail. Your aches and pains might be symptoms of old age, but what happens when you no longer can. I am still a “youngster” with my 71 years, have my unexpected illnesses and managed to break a leg on the way. I have a husband, he is 8 year older than me, so work that out. In two years he will be 80 years old and what then. Will we remain independent, or will we have to think about a senior home. It hovers in the background and we talk about it, we even begin to forget stuff. But why worry, che sara sara and we cannot change it. One step at a time.

    • Exactly. We just muddle through and try to “keep moving” (as my mailman says and sometimes I’m amazed at his ability to do that). But I’ve also realized that all I’ve ever done is “muddle through” and “keep moving” and I wonder if anyone does anything else, really. 🙂

  5. Beautiful poem! We do the best with what we’ve got? “Muddle” is probably a good word for it too 🙂 since life didn’t come with a handbook lol at least I know mine went missing long long ago…

  6. Yup. Best laid plans can go awry. And we find ourselves in places we didn’t quite imagine (not that imagining it in advance would change much). A strange balance, needed/not needing and wanting/not wanting help. And the connections who may or may not be there.

    My great grandmother lived to 97. Outlived her peers, and both her children. Fortunately, she had adequate social connections and financial resources to get the help/support she needed. Her assistant said that for years she prayed every night to “be taken”. I think those last years were hard, despite other family being around.

  7. Your Dad sounds like he was wonderful, Martha. That hospital question about having someone to take care of you after surgery is unpleasant. It’s usually on pre-op checklists so that in case people need home health services, they can be arranged. That’s a beautiful poem.

    • My dad was great — the whole poem is a little book and my dad carried it with him when he was in the Army during WW II. I can’t say he was in the war, because he really wasn’t, but… The last Christmas present he gave me was that copy. ❤

      I'm good with the question. It's MY neuroses that comes into play when someone asks. I know it. In fact, because my friend who's taking care of me has some potential problems at home, I've arranged alternative care just in case. I did that today. My doc was really enthusiastic about the program at my little hospital and I was happy to hear about it and to hear her energy.

  8. Dreams play on our fears, don’t they? Thank goodness for the light of day. One can be surrounded by people and still be alone. I think it is a state of mind. Having said that, my true love is my best friend, but one of us will probably go first. I often say to him that if he leaves me, can I come too..

    If you have one or two friends that ‘get’ you, maybe that’s all you need? Or maybe having someone, like Bear, who needs you. I’ve hear he is a great conversationalist. 🙂 Let those kind people your doctor suggested look after you. They could have lots of stories, which if they are not too busy, they could share with you.

    • Dreams really do prey on our fears. It’s amazing.

      My friend Lois is going to bring me home after the surgry and stay for a few days, but I think it’s wise to have a backup plan. Now I have one and I feel more relaxed. I also met and talked to a woman today who had exactly the procedure I’m having — she answered a lot of my questions. 🙂 Now I’m more excited about it than afraid.

      I think I had three shots at “true love” but the first time I listened to my mom, the second time there was a problem that — in the 70’s — was far more difficult than it is now, and the third time I was just plain scared having survived an abusive marriage that I entered way too young. I also had my own “baggage” that I didn’t fully understand with all its destructive attributes untill a few years ago. It’s OK.

      I’m grateful for the friends I have. I truly love them and know my good luck in having them in my life.

  9. Life isn’t always what we thought it was going to be. right? I have a spouse and 2 adult children that I love to the moon. But I’m 65 with cancer( in remission, but still). well, I enjoyed your post .

    • In some ways, it’s a crapshoot and the best we can do is love those we love, be kind in general and take care of ourselves the best we can. I’m sorry about the cancer — I hope it stays where it is. That’s a hard thing to face, contend with and live with. Thank you for stopping by! ❤

Comments are closed.