Saturday, July 14, 2018

The New Neighbor

There are a lot of  ways to tell you're getting old. The revolutionary anthems of your youth are playing in the pharmacy aisle. You can mold your own elbows like Play-Doh. You have a different relationship with death.

Young people don't think about death much at all. When they do, it's in the form of nameless terror that comes unbidden, a sudden, nocturnal wad of dread, to be replaced come morning with your regularly scheduled immortality.

Old people have more familiarity. Death is the new neighbor who moved in down the street. We can smell what he's cooking. We've been peering at him through the blinds for a while, and we're getting to know his habits. They're not all good. We probably should bring over a fruit basket so he will think kindly of us, but it's too late and awkward now.

Old people get specific about this. It's not a big dread-wad anymore, but a sober review of options, most of them unpalatable. Most of us have notions of the nature of our own demise, educated guesses mostly, and we also have our druthers.

Me, for instance. I druther be minding my own business on the street and have a piano fall on top of me. According to cartoon lore, this sort of thing used to happen all the time. People stared at pies on the windowsill by means of hyphens, people ran off cliffs and were doing fine until they looked down, and people walked under falling pianos. My friend Bill actually had his grand piano craned up twenty floors into his apartment, and back down again later. So I had a shot. When I go, I want to be smashed into veneer and hear that 88-key clusterjangle, last thing.

But that's not what I think will really happen. I think one day my neck will gang up on me and sit on my windpipe. I can feel it gearing up sometimes when I fall asleep in my chair. Any time my chin drops forward, my neck gang convenes and plots to take me out.

Another way to tell you're getting old is if you refer to your own neck in the plural. But there you go. It's a gang. It's three against one. I don't like my chances.

39 comments:

  1. Death doesn't scare me; dying does. I had a lot of elderly relatives all die around 2002 - 2004. My mom, three uncles, and Paul's mom. I've seen the various ways a person can go, and none of the options, as you say, are palatable. The only elder who had the right idea was my uncle Joe. He had cancer that had already metastasized, and rather than go for chemo and live a few months longer, but in a bedridden state, he opted to do nothing. He was still driving and going to the racetrack even a couple weeks before the end. A couple weeks bedridden at least sounds a bit better than months of agony. The worst was my mom, with Alzheimers.

    As a result, I've opted to keep our two vintage cars, even though we seldom drive them and they just sit in the garage. Modern cars just don't produce enough carbon. I'll undoubtedly be a control freak until the very end.

    I like Woody Allen's quote on this subject: "I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Assuming the "HOA" of our national neighborhood doesn't take me/us out in the next couple of years, I'll probably go like Joe. I figure my species *is* a cancer, so why fight the inevitable death BY cancer?

      Delete
    2. Longevity is for suckers. Those extra years that everyone seems to be striving for are tacked onto the end... when you're old, alone, and everything hurts. If they were somehow slipped into the beginning or the middle, it would be worth the effort.

      (I agree about our species being a cancer. The only difference between cancer cells and normal cells are their proliferation.)

      Delete
    3. I was thinking of Woody Allen's quote as soon as you started! Beat me to it. And yes--that at least is a decent used of carbon. Cbott, you remind me that a large percentage of doctors say they wouldn't take their own life-prolonging advice with regard to terminal illness. I guess they have to mention the options, though.

      Delete
    4. I'm with Woody! Thanks to murmmers for a timely post.As you say, death is no longer a blip on a distant horizon, but shadow that lives down the street! Alice Lynn

      Delete
    5. Hi Alice! Nice to hear from you!

      Delete
  2. "Death is the new neighbor who moved in down the street. We can smell what he's cooking. We've been peering at him through the blinds for a while, and we're getting to know his habits. They're not all good. We probably should bring over a fruit basket so he will think kindly of us, but it's too late and awkward now."

    This is IT. So well said, and with cheek. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My cheek is well supported by my chin gang.

      Delete
  3. The movie critic Roger Ebert, who died after significant suffering and disfigurement from cancer caused in part from radiation administered to him as a kid in order to treat earaches or some such, said that "...I was comfortable before I was born and I expect to be comfortable after I die." I think about this, as I have no recollection or experience of any unhappiness, illness, apprehension, fear, pain, boredom, disability or panic at all prior to 1953. There was a lot going on before that. None of it affected me, apparently. (Well, not counting what my parents smoked or drank.) Yet these are things I dread Towards The End. I'd like to live in one of those states, like Oregon, where you can get a peaceful exit plan. Sip some wine, swallow a few pills,depart peacefully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why, Susan, you're RIGHT--it all DID start in 1953! BTW, even in Oregon, you can't get a prescription for every terminal illness (Alzheimers and ALS, for instance, don't count), but it's a start. And I've read that it is often very difficult for a patient to find a doctor to prescribe, and then to find a pharmacist to fulfill. Bleah.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks. I just read your latest post and was so amused by it I decided to link to it here, and then I noticed you'd done the same with mine. Thanks again!

      Delete
  5. I recently lost some of the 25 lbs I’d put on since age sixty-five. I did it slowly, carefully, and with the best nutrition I could buy. I thought my doctor would be pleased. Mais, non! “At your age, you want your BMI in the Overweight range, so you’ll live longer if you get really sick,” says the 35 year old physician. I plan to lose the last five lbs. and by-gawd stay there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "So you'll live longer if you get really sick?" That is weird. Well, extra pounds are good for osteoporosis.

      Delete
    2. The cynic in me thinks he has an ulterior motive for you to "live longer if you get really sick": Longevity + Illness = A down payment on a yacht.

      Delete
    3. Apparently it's because if you get really sick, you can lose a lot of weight and if you've already just done that, the extra loss may be too much and you'll have no reserves to fall back on or something like that.

      Delete
    4. At my age, if I get really sick, it’ll likely be one of The Biggies, the kind that kill you even after they’ve thrown every miserable treatment imaginable at you. I get the reasoning. I just don’t care for it. I’ve watched it play out.

      Delete
    5. I figure I'm just going to be the size I'm going to be. I only ever fret about ten pounds one way or the other, but not enough to do anything about them. There ARE certain camera angles I don't care for. It was an amazing discovery for me that when Dave takes a picture of me from his full height, close up, my fanny just about disappears. No wonder he still loves me.

      Delete
  6. Some deaths are most definitely more palatable. My maternal grandfather nailed one of them. And 97 while painting his house he fell from a ladder and broke a leg. At 98 he climbed that ladder and finished the job. And 99 (and eleven months and two weeks) he spent a full day working in the garden. He came inside and said he was a bit tired, didn't want dinner and went to bed and didn't wake again. I never knew him but would be v happy to follow his excellent example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was all on board with that one until you said "didn't want dinner." That seems dire.

      Delete
    2. That story defines full life.

      Delete
    3. That's amazing, EC. What a wonderful way to live, to the very end.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had to think about the hyphens business, but suddenly the dim bulb brightened :)

    My neck is ganging up on me too. I've wakened myself many times if I'm lying on my back on the couch. In bed I've trained myself to never roll over onto my back. The respiratory therapist endorsed it as an alternative to a CPAP machine, which I could not tolerate. I'd like to die in my sleep, but preferably not due to suffocation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice of you to make the extra effort with the hyphens--I worried that it was too obscure. I know Henry spied pies that way, but maybe he was the only one. Although the Family Circus group walks with hyphens.

      Delete
  9. I'd prefer to just fall asleep and never wake up, but please let it be after I've sorted all my stuff and given the kids the things I want them to have. but not now, because I'm still using those things.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "88-key clusterjangle." I am going to put that into the next progressive jazz recording I review. Love the way you write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lift anything you want! I'll forget having written it anyway.

      Delete
  11. As a young child I had a terrific fear of death by typhoid fever or lightning or tornadoes. (Living through Hurricane Betsy may have had something to do with that.) Now my paranoia evokes vivid scenarios of my loved ones departing via actions both mundane and horrific. I recall a Family Circus cartoon from ages ago of the mom envisioning similar disaster when one of the kids was late getting home so maybe I’m not as abnormal as I think. As for me, many of my friends didn’t even make it to 60 so I’ll take the aches and pains of daily living with gratitude. I just don’t want to be a bad smell in a hot house when somebody eventually finds me gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, THAT was vivid. I'm lucky. I grew up with a dread of the lights from a passing car whipping around the walls of my bedroom. That creeped me out.

      Delete
  12. Well said. My great granny started a run down her stairs to answer her door. She was a bit of a drama queen, even I knew that and I was 7.

    She decided not to use the steps and wound up in her hall with a broken neck.

    I've always thought it a fitting exit for a drama queen and she remains a hero to me.

    The other ways of dying have no appeal whatsoever.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure that one appeals to me either!

      Delete
  13. In a recent episode of "Pearls Before Swine", if I remember correctly, the pig asks rat what death is like. His reply:
    "Death is a lot like sleep, except you don't have to get up every two hours to pee."

    ReplyDelete
  14. It's been a companion of mine for a few years, While I'm not that fond of him, it's like the seasons. I may not be that fond of winter anymore, but it's gonna come.
    Mine is a bit like the proverbial 'light at the end of the tunnel." 'cept it's the train.
    I was once afraid I'd mimic my sister, who having spent her life ridding me of catholic ideas, decided in her days as a terminal pancreatic CA pt, to 're-convert'. Her funeral was difficult for me.
    I know now I won't have that issue, came close already, and that false idol didn't raise it's head.
    I'm content my molecules will soon spread around the world, and equal my present state. You know, the 'Law of Converservation' and all that.
    I'm content with that. I just hope, that on the off chance that an afterlife exists, and you can hear from your grave, somebody will come to the Laurel Hill Cemetery and tell me how all this trump shit works out.
    cheers, Murr

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know about you, but I couldn't stop listening to the news yesterday. Man oh man. It'll be Lights Out for me too, which doesn't bother me a bit, ultimately.

      Delete
    2. just re-read mine..."Law of Converservation".....does that refer to speaking less? Geez......

      Delete