August 8, 2012
Sandra Tsing Loh’s hilarious essay on the tragically sad death of her 92 year old father is a guide in what to expect should we be so lucky to avoid any James Dean styled premature ending at the whim of a Ford truck in the oncoming lane.
In ‘Daddy Issues’ Sandra writes of her father:
“He was passing out on bus benches, hitting his head, causing his doctors to insist on a pacemaker (which he refused) … He wants SEX. He proudly needs only 1/16th of a Viagra pill for SEX.”
She further details his dementia, Parkinsons, Wheelchair bound hydration problems and the $10,000 a month required for 24 hour care of himself and his 72 year old romantic interest (who refuses to be romantic with him, instead opting for dementia induced wanderings onto Torrance, California highways.)
It reminded me of a recent lunch with my Grandma. She repeatedly called my Mom Donna (not my Mom’s name), asked me who I was and insisted on dipping everything she ate in ketchup.
According to Martin Amis in “The Pregnant Widow” every human life ends in tragedy. Sometimes sooner, always later.”
Recently I found myself testing the Deansian odds on a road trip across the western states (Cars are our most efficient way of killing each other) and somewhere between Las Vegas and San Diego my friend and captain at the wheel became infuriated when a Rav 4 in front of us begain slowing several miles beneath the speed limit.
As he motivated the rest of us to become angered I thought to myself “are you kidding me – I’m going to be 90 years old on the edge of death someday and you expect me to get mad over an under the speed limit violation?’
It seems foolish to be frustrated over a few lost dollars or a few wasted minutes on the freeway if you can still get by without even 1/16th of a Viagra.
I once had dinner in Germany with a retired American Veteran who was visiting Berlin for the first time since being stationed there 50 years before and no matter how much interest I expressed in his life and service he was just as entertained by my youth, what he called “the life of someone in their 20′s”. The evening taught me that for every young person hungry for recognition there’s a distinguished person of age who just wants to be young again.
Felix Dennis for example, publisher of Maxim Magazine and millionaire hundreds of times over, tells readers of his book “How to Get Rich” that he’d give up his success if it meant he could be 20 years old and broke all over again.
Imagining old age forces you to do something with the youth you still have. It’s hard to practice gratitude by imagining starving in Somalia or loosing your home in an Indian Ocean tidal wave because we don’t have the necessary reference points – those things don’t seem real in an everyday sense. But visit your nonagenarian grandparents or do a bit of service at a convalescent home and you can remind yourself that one day you are going to be seriously old.
Your love may have left you but you don’t have Alzheimer’s and can still remember the good times.
You barely paid the water bill but you’re young enough to stand in the shower without slipping.
You’re out of toilet paper but you could wipe your own ass if you had some.
Most of the little pebbles we find in the shoe of life aren’t that big of a deal when we remember we can still walk without a wheelchair and sit on a bus bench without passing out.
Enjoy Sandra’s essay here: http://www.theatlantic.com/