When you are almost 90, your choices in life become limited. Your body won’t do what it used to do. Friends depart — forever. In general, your opinion and presence in community affairs sharply wane. If you once had power or influence, forget it. You don’t have much now.
The worst part is that you become helpless and dependent on others — fast. Even one day can make a sharp difference. That day can be devastating when, without warning, you are suddenly jerked from your home — permanently, with no recourse and no say so in the matter. And no resources with which to resist. Helplessness and heartache — come to thousands every day. A hearse offers the only ride out.
Remember that fine and fancy poem some of us learned long ago in high school:
“It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll;
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.”
That sounds fine and brave on a summer day, but I wonder if anyone really feels that way when the last dark night is closing around.
This grim possibility has come tragically close to me recently. I know a few people for whom that sudden, next-to-last move has actually been rather welcome. The old home place is expensive and work-intensive to keep up. Some welcome the chance to lay down the responsibility. Fine for them. Some just get too tired to do it anymore. Younger people who might read this, be aware that someday you may become very, very weary.
For others, consciousness may diminish until that line of caring grows fainter and dimmer till it is scarcely discernible when they step into that dim world where nothing much seems to matter any more.
None of these are me. Things matter to me — a lot. I’m not happy with the idea of letting all go, especially when it seems to me to be based on much misunderstanding.
How about an example. It is awful winter weather, and roads are in frightful condition. There is a long lane back to my home, and it had a bad spot in it. I have a few aides — or rather, I did have them — who helped me for three hours a day. (I’m approaching 89)) I didn’t want them to get stuck there on a dark, icy winter morning. I called to ask a sheriff’s deputy to check to see if it was passable for them. He did so with good will. It didn’t take long. I have now been told that I was appallingly in the wrong! Sheriff’s deputies are supposed to solve crimes, not help anybody with highway trouble.
Another time when I came home via Ahoy Transport, I entered my house to discover that one of my aides had inadvertently tightly shut the door going from my big entry room into the main living area. It was not locked but shut so tightly in the sticky, damp weather of that particular season that I could not, by any amount of effort, get it unstuck. Could I call a neighbor? Sure. “We are not available to take your call. Please leave a message.” Fine. After much fruitless effort, I confess to a heinous crime. I called for help. A deputy came and, with some effort, unstuck the door. (Yes, I had called various neighbors with no answer.)
And once, some time ago, I called for help when a bat was in the house, swooping down over me till his wings almost touched my cheek.
I am sorry to say I have never been involved in a serious crime when it would have been legitimate to call the police or sheriff. I didn’t give them enough trouble to properly pay attention to me.
Be that as it may. I was not given enough time even to think what I ought to take with me. Maybe it won’t matter that much.
“Farewell, ye green mountains whose mazes to me, more beautiful far than Eden could be,” sang Davy Crocket. Maybe I’m mistaken to feel a little like he felt. I have been wrong many times…many, many times. And sometimes it’s hard to know how you “ought” to feel. You only know your heart is broken. Again.
Lois Kempton writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.