I remember when I was young I was impatient to grow older. Those kids 15, plus or minus, were leaving Junior High (Middle school) and entering high school. Why not me? And those 16 year old were driving cars; if I were 16 I could drive a car too. And if I were 21 I could legally drink and not have to get someone to buy me a six-pack of beer. There was so much to look forward to. About the only things I can think of that I dreaded was a class test or a spanking.
As I did grew older there still was much to look forward to. A job, a promotion, a house, a new car – there were those and many more. Then the only thing I dreaded was growing old; but slowly I did. You see growing old never stops for anything but when it bumps into a headstone. When you are in your 7th decade of life, as I am now, you can see that the headstone is much closer. At seventh (or more) decade of life you can dwell on that stone and read the obituaries. If you are reasonably healthy, you keep thinking you might just avoid the grim reaper for several decades or more. That won’t happen but you can stay positive about living longer.
I try to stay positive by avoiding the obituaries. However along with the avoided obituaries, my newspaper publishes a list of well-known people (and their ages) who are celebrating their birthday on the date of the paper. As I read the names of the well-knowns I concentrate on their ages. I make note of seventh, eighth and ninth decade birthdays and think to myself if they can do it, so can I. If Actor James Earl Jones is 84 then I can make my eighties. Hell, if Actress Betty White is 93 then I should be able to make my nineties. That is the height staying positive.
But not all is wine and roses as one ages. There is something called reality. There are pills and doctors, there are canes and wheelchairs, there are procedures and surgeries. Probably most ominous, if we think about it, are dementia and the Big A, Alzheimer’s. They are the equivalent of neutron bombs; they attack the brain which houses the mind while leaving the body intact. At first no one knows if they are on that train ride from healthy to vegetable. Is forgetting loved Aunt Susy’s first name a simple blip or is it the train pulling out of the station. And if you are just starting to take the unwanted train ride, you wonder if you are on the express. Either way, you know it’s a ride that has no stops along the way; it steadily choo’s-choo’s till you reach the end of the line.
My heartfelt best wishes for all who are in the throes of the Big A or dementia and their families as well.