On Aging…

I often wonder what kind of old woman I will be. On certain days, I think that I will be the long haired, sandal-footed Earth mother, dressed in layers of sheer, flowing fabrics and loud jewelry. Other days, I am picturing a sassy, silver-haired beauty, with flawlessly coordinated outfits and matching scarves. But most days, I am convinced I will be that slick-talking, loud-mouthed, bedazzled sweatsuit and dress shoe wearing hag with a filthy vocabulary and no filter. The kind that the kids love, and the adults avoid. Frankly, I am working towards the latter, at the rate I’m going.

But in reality, I don’t know how this will all turn out. Nobody does, and that’s what scares us the most about getting older. What we do know is that barring a freak crossbow accident or unmanned, out-of-control apple cart, we are going to get old. Our reflexes will slow, joints will stiffen, and skin will sag – and the only thing we’ll have left will be our memories. Memories that will comfort us with thoughts of back-in-the-day fuckery and make us do the quiet, old-lady-shoulder-shake-laugh to ourselves. Or, memories that will torture us with constant reminders of all of our bad choices, and make us weep silently in our beds at night. Think, Old Percy Hedgecomb at the end of “The Green Mile”:

We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.

However, the scariest concept about aging is the loss of memory – the one thing, I think, that we should be entitled to keep once time has stripped us of almost everything else. Because sadly, many of us won’t even be allowed to keep that.

And that’s just… cruel.

I mean, this puts me on one of those “I’mma need you to explain, God” temper tantrums for which I am famous. Like, really, God? After all the:

• Children she raised,
• Wars he fought,
• Lives he saved,
• Money she donated,
• Stories he told,
• Traditions she passed…

… they have to suffer this indignity? Where is the justice? Isn’t it cruel enough that they were unfortunate enough to find themselves, at the end of their lives, living in a country which would just as soon put them on an island to fend for themselves than treat them with any kind of respect? And now, they are no longer able to celebrate the personalities they’ve earned after decades of trial and error, but instead become hostages to some unreliable interloper?
This, to me, is the closest thing to Hell on Earth there is.

Well, this and Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire”. But that’s another blog.

Anyway, the concept of dementia is so frightening, that I can almost see the logic behind the fear of aging.

Almost.

I can see the fear of being a prisoner in one’s own mind, but I’m having a hard time justifying the absolute aversion to looking older. Our society is obsessed with looking young; the evidence is all around us. Pills are invented to reverse gray hair. Commercials advertising youth serums, produced by makeup companies, and promoted by aging actresses (who have obviously had work done) are everywhere.

Youth serums? Really? Maybe it’s just me – but when I hear youth serum, I’m thinking something a bit more sci-fi. I’m talking, wild-haired, white-coated, cackling mad scientist –type shit. Not this plasticky, android-ish actress, bopping around to a pseudo-feminist Beyonce track.

But I digress.

When discussing aging, there are more important things to be concerned about than how we look. It may be easy for some of us to focus on the superficial, but for the rest of us who are caring for elderly loved ones who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, the stakes of aging are much higher.

To them, there is a deeper, darker side to the aging process that makes wrinkles look like child’s play. They are watching their loved ones disappear, piece by piece, day by day, forever.

They are waiting for a cure that restores more than a hair color, or skin texture.

And they are praying for a miracle.

There doesn’t seem like much hope, when looking at the statistics. Which means that we should remain focused on what little we can do, here and now.
We can care for grandma a little more, and try to sympathize with her every now and then. We can be a little more patient with grandpa, when he tells us the same story for the tenth time.

And we can realize that if we’re lucky, we’ll be in their shoes one day.

Because the alternative…

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