Sunday, January 02, 2011
An Old Man's Fear
And yet another year is gone. Welcome 2011, another year closer to the QUESTION.
Each year, as I get older, I note with some alacrity how fast the years speed by. All of a sudden here I am 69 years old, my youth but a distant memory of the past, and my main goal in the future is to stay out of a nursing home. I have to face reality that I am no longer a young man, full of vim and vigor ready to take on the world. I don't like to drive at night. I like a warm and comfortable home. I don't like change. I don't know the who most of the people are in People Magazine. All sure signs of OLD MAN.
Another year and I am staving off the inevitable march to the Old Folks Home where I would probably spend my days propped up in a chair in the nursing home day room (with the TV blaring and no one watching it) with my fellow drug induced old folk.
Oh I know all to well what happens when you live too long and are put out to pasture, so to speak. Sometimes the family has no choice. My dear Aunt Jeanette (my Mother's older sister) has been in a nursing home for the past seven years. My aunt has dementia and lives in a special unit for dementia patients. She is well taken care of. If there is a saving grace for dementia, it is that my aunt doesn't know where she is. But is that a life that I want for myself? Been there, seen that, no way.
My brothers and I promised our Mom we wouldn't put her in a nursing home like her sisters. Thank goodness we were able to keep that promise. The last year of Mom's life she was slipping into dementia like both of her older sisters. Mom had another older sister who developed dementia shortly before she was placed in a nursing home. That sister only lasted a few months in the nursing home before she died.
So this is my worry this new year as I take another step into Old Age. To be quite frank about it, I never expected to live this long. I was sure I would be dead and gone by 60. I almost checked out when I was 17 years old when I had a botched surgery and developed a staph infection. But I survived that brush with mortality and have lived another 52 years old to cause havoc (and hopefully cause some happiness) with family, friends and strangers. I would like to live at least another 10 or 15 years of still stirring up a ruckus wherever I happen to plant my feet. One thing I can say about my life, wherever I am, people know it. I do not go quietly into that good night.
Some friends of mine have taken out insurance policies for Long Term Care, which I supposes means that the policy will pay for their stay in a nursing home. Others have a policy for at home care. I have no such insurance policies. The only "policy" I have is Significant Other. But Significant Other is 82 years old. Oh he's doing fine but the odds are that I'll out live him and then where am I? I'll be by myself, that's where I'll be. Oh, I can live with myself quite easily. I'm the best company I have. In fact that is Significant Other's main complaint about me and our relationship, that I don't have time for him. I plead guilty, I am a Solitary Man. But I do love him and we have had a very compatible, synergistic relationship for the past 46 years. I often kid him and threaten to check out before he does. He doesn't think this is funny. I do.
I try not to get myself all twisted up in knots worrying about this developing situation of what will happen to me if I live to be 80 or 90 years old. If Significant Other predeceases me I plan to get a cat or two (he hates cats) to keep my company and provide me with love and adoration in my senior years. But cats won't be able to shovel the driveway or take me to my doctor's appointments (which are occurring with increasing frequency the older I get). And I certainly don't plan on replacing Significant Other. I'm way too set in my ways to go through training another Significant other to tend to my wants and needs. Besides, who would subject themselves to that fate? I have to be realistic here. I cannot live with anyone nor could anyone put up with me. God knows I am difficult.
So what's to be done? My answer is I DON'T KNOW. I have four nieces and one nephew. While I respect and care a great deal for them, they have their own families and I would never dream of putting the burden of taking care of Uncle Ronnie to them. Besides, I cannot imagine any of them taking care of me. Then there are the grand-nephews and grand-nieces. I hardly know them and again, I cannot imagine any of them taking care of me. I mean no disrespect to any of them but I really wouldn't want any of them to take care of me.
I remember something my cousin Jackie (my Mom's oldest sister's son) said to me last year. We were discussing this very subject and he told me that he didn't want any of his children or grandchildren taking care of him either in old age. He said he would rather be remembered as "Big Daddy" than as a slobbering, helpless old man, mouth agape, who needed his diaper changed. He said he didn't want to "go out" that way. I agree with him. Jackie (older than I am by two years) always did know best.
So here I am another year old and another year closer to the Final Exit. I'm trying not to worry my increasingly gray haired head over my eventual fate as I fearlessly enter 2011.
Perhaps I'll be lucky and go like the comedian James Coco. After a large Thanksgiving meal he told his wife that he was going to lie down on the couch for a short nap. As it turned out he took a LONG nap. He never woke up.
Now that's the way to go.