“I've always thought that one of the worse things in the world would be to live to be really old & feeble. I'm torn about the assisted suicide thing. I don't want to be in a physical/mental situation where I'm helpless & useless. (Who would?) …
“But then I suspect that the closer you get to death the more you cling to life... And like the aging athlete, does anyone ever really know when they're washed up? ...
“It's a tricky thing.”
KP (aka, “Seven of Nine”)
Remember when “assisted suicide” was a joke for old people who weren’t, we always assumed, giving up much? So, what’s the deal with assisted suicide, eh? But now, it’s different. We’re beginning to figure out what life would be if… if WE got older. Who’s laughing now, monkey boy?
For many of us old enough to be called “crones” we have become caregivers of our parents – who are now older than old. I don’t particularly like the word “crone” because it conjures that scene in Macbeth where three witches stir a bubbling cauldron. To me that word carries some negative baggage of pre-liberated womanhood, and low self esteem. I wear flowing purple robes, and scarves of lavender pink.. I neither dye my graying hair, nor wear it up like the elderly. I wear my hair long and trailing behind my head like a dusty comet’s tail. I’ve lost my looks but gained 20+ pounds of wisdom. Lucky me, I’m frickin’ magic.
Which - to get back to getting even older than old - is why I’d prefer not to seek the refuge of yesterday. Sure, I don’t want to surrender to intellectual entropy any more than the next old lady, but I don’t want to hide beneath some myths from prehistory. I don’t want to explain who I am in terms of what’s in the past.
Of course, this line of thought reminded me of my own past. When I was a know-it-all of about 30, I watched my ex-MIL care for her mother - who was then in her mid-90s. Nana no longer knew most people, and spoke mostly in her native Polish. By day, Nana sat in a rocking chair and knitted a single skein of cheap, fat, neon pink yarn into a 8 - 10” wide scarf. By night, ex-MIL would unwind the day’s knitting, and roll the Sisyphean ball of yarn back to the sewing basket.
Then, I was a smug size 8. I thought it was a heartless, endless, cruel chore. But ex-MIL was in her sixties, about where I now find myself in This Pageant, Life. Now, I see that scene of mother and daughter re-enacting Penelope’s glorious Trojan War Tapestry. By day, Penelope would weave the story to put off her aggressive suitors. By night, the Queen would un- weave her day’s work, as she waited for Ulysses to make it back from war.
I see the world from both sides now. Tonight, I offer a prayer for the peace of the lonely elderly – wide-eyed and awake through the dark nights, and nodding off during the fuzzy days. Tonight, like Penelope, I pray: Please, try to get home before dark.