My mother is 98. She lives alone – 3,000 miles from me – with her scrappy, barky poodle, Charlie, and she struggles to cope with her age (while denying she needs any help). She is sometimes forgetful, often wobbly, but always engaged with the world. Don’t get her started on drones. Or police brutality. Or immigration policy. Or Cuba. Her favorite expression is “connect the dots.”
Clearly, I am familiar with end-of-life issues. As are so many of our readers. I chose three pieces about grappling with old age from the many sent in by our contributors. Just as clearly, it will not be the last time this topic will appear in Persimmon Tree.
Here is one more by Lea Wood, a friend of my mother’s. She died this fall, a month before her 98th birthday, before we had a chance to run it.
Becoming Really Old
There’s been a shift, now quite plain and clear, so that I feel much different at 96 and counting, from the way I felt about myself three to five years ago. Some things I’m glad to say are the same: I am still enthusiastic about life, and love to share talk about happenings, ideas, which is mostly all I’m good for. What I can no longer do that used to be important to me is march or vigil in a worthy cause, get arrested for protesting evils, hike in nature and do tasks easily. No more!
How does it feel to be really decrepit in multiple ways? Well, more serious physical disabilities make the changes: not hearing well, seeing in blurs, unable to walk the way I used to – fast and strong. For a long time I had problems sleeping at night. I finally worked out to just get up and do something and sleep whenever I could.
On the other hand I find myself being kinder to people, all kinds, even those who would have irked me earlier. I don’t rush through life, as I did so many of the years behind me.
In spite of the forgetting, in some ways my brain works fairly well for me. When I sit down to write something, I am happy with the way my words turn out. They seem easier, but even with many revisions, I enjoy it and know that ultimately I will like what I write. I like the fine-tuning of the process.
My experiences with nature have quite changed with city life, but it takes very little to arouse my delight in the nature available. A of couple years ago I was able to attract a flock of pigeons to the tree-filled, grassy and flower-bedded space between the two wings of our apartment building. I even had one come to my window. She had curled feathers up the back of her neck to a little crown, so I named her Princess. I just liked having the pigeons around – they were never “dirty” to me. Now that we can’t have bird feeders up because of bears, we only get a few robins and crows. Squirrels used to delight me with their gymnastics to raid the feeder. I check the ground and the sky from my second floor window, noting the changing seasons, and lately how different they are becoming – the sun so much more intense, the incredible rains of this summer day after day. It’s scary to see nature changing somewhat drastically.
I know that death is next and wonder how it will happen. I am mostly curious about it. I hope the experience of the white light I’ve heard about will happen for me. I’ve only experienced one death in a close way: a friend chose my house to die in. On her deathbed I saw her faint smile. She seemed at peace, after months of pain. Side note: three men in her life all helped her through her last ordeal: former husband, former lover, and current lover! She was beautiful and dear, and too young to die of cancer.
Some housekeeping details;
- We have a new format for fiction and nonfiction. Let us hear your thoughts about the changes; you could post them in the comments section here.
- We created a Facebook page for Persimmon Tree and told everyone we could think of about it. The response has been minimal; perhaps we don’t know what might interest our readers or perhaps our readers are just not that interested in Facebook. Hmmmmm.
This story takes me to another level of inspiration. There is something meaningful here for all of us at any age. Thank you for sharing this and for making the future even more special whether we are in Vermont, New York City, or Texas. A fan forever.
I’ve only looked at a bit of this issue so far, but the first two things I paid attention to made so happy that I’m sending this note as fan mail: the persimmons-on-the-washer photo + Lea Wood’s essay ……. thank you!