I just read the article by Zeke Emanuel that was circulating awhile ago. He wants to die at 75 and he makes a really good case for why. Having spent a lot of time in Mom's senior community I can relate. There are people older than Mom still active and engaged with few health problems and people younger in much worse shape, on piles of pills. It seems somewhat random. I suppose genetics and access to health care and individual health histories are all cogs in the machine but how healthy and happy a person is in their older years also seems a bit arbitrary.
Emanuel names a new cultural archetype: the American Immortal. I really like that. Most conversations about health feel distorted and exhausting to me, usually because so many of them are fat hating and fat blaming. In his article he says statistics imply that babies born today will live longer than their parents and in any article about the (cough) obesity epidemic we're all going to die sooner because we're all so fat. And, after all is said and done, there is money being made. There is a market selling immortality.
Leonard Cohen just turned 80 and started smoking again. Maybe. He said he wants to but who knows if he did. It made me really happy. I decided I'd do the same thing except the last time I had a smoke I got a wicked stomach ache. I (like Leonard) think about smoking a lot but I don't like stomach aches.
Both men are really saying the same thing. At a certain point they aren't going to focus on extending their life. They're going to focus on enjoying it.
Mom is 88 and is on no medication. Despite the fact that her fingers look gnarled and she uses a walker she says she has no pain. Every once in awhile a joint is "talking to her." Cute. Last year she had a mole removed and there was a time when we thought she might have melanoma and it might be in her lymph glands. They removed the mole and the melanoma they had found and it seems to have been all there was. I remember they said if she did have it in her lymph glands they wouldn't treat it because of her age. That made sense to me. The treatment could have been so miserable.
Despite her physical heath her mind is very obviously deteriorating. and she knows it. And she hates it. She talks a lot about wanting to "get off this earth". I'm struggling to find a way to turn that around. She has good days. She has everything she needs. But losing metal acuity is so painful.
This morning the guy who gets her groceries came in through the garage and a bird followed him. He and another guy eventually chased it out. When I heard I had an oddly superstitious reaction. A bird in the house means death.
I'm not going to be OK when Mom dies. I'm going be wrecked for a little while. But there are days when she's so unhappy. I wish there was a switch we could flip. I wish she could get into bed and flip a switch.
It wasn't until much later that it occurred to me that that I'm going have surgery and a bird in the house means a death in the family. Gulp. I'm not actually worried about dying. I'm somewhat worried about things getting worse but I don't think I'm any more worried than seems normal. I get jabs and twinges and aches. The pain is never higher than a 6. Mostly just annoying.
I don't have an age that I want to die. I feel like I'm OK with death but if you told me I'd be dead soon I might realize that I'm not at all OK with it. These things are too abstract. And superstition is like a fly that buzzes in your ear now and again.
I've had a bird in my house.
And I'm still here.