I just have to say-getting old sucks.
I’m not necessarily talking about myself, mind you, although I admit to a disturbing and noticeable slow down in my ability to do anything physical this summer. For instance, ever since I planted flowers a couple of weeks ago, I’m barely able to straighten my back out, and my knees have been hurting suspiciously, particularly at night.
But, I just returned from a visit to my aunt and uncle, which is what really prompted my opening remark. They’re both in their early 80’s, still living in the house they bought in 1956 for $3,000. But he’s got Alzheimer’s and is terribly hard of hearing. In the last three years, she had angioplasty, colon cancer, and now osteoporosis and severe arthritis in her knees, which has nearly crippled her.
They have no children of their own. But, I grew up in the house across the street from them, and it was to their house that I’d run when I was ticked off at my parents, or needed a favor, or just wanted to chill out in front of the TV and eat Frito’s and drink Coke. My aunt was always good for a ride somewhere, which came in handy since my mom didn’t drive. My uncle loved shopping, and was never so happy as when he was driving me to the bookstore or the mall, and buying whatever I happened to pick out. He carried on that tradition with my son, too.
When I was three years old, my uncle bought me a box of candy for Valentine’s Day, and he never missed giving me candy on Valentine’s day. He’d drive over to my house no matter what the weather, and leave it inside the door if I wasn’t home from work. Two years ago, for the first time in 48 years, I didn’t get that box of candy- he simply didn’t remember it was Valentine’s Day.
It breaks my heart to see them like this. He’s driving her kind of crazy, to be honest, with his inability to hear or remember anything she says. Everything is a huge chore for them these days, and now the neighborhood grocery store where they’ve shopped for the past 20 years is closing. My aunt says she’s ready to give up.
“I’ve lived long enough,” she says wearily, when I kiss her good-bye. “It’s time for me to go now.”
I once read that elderly people sometimes begin to crave death much as you might crave the ability to sleep when you’re weary. You know that feeling when you’re so tired you feel nearly sick, and you just can’t bear to keep you eyes open another minute?
I’m starting to see how that might be possible. As I said, getting old really sucks.