Most of life’s deepest thoughts are about our mortality and the meaning of life. We have a societal reverence for life that seems to be on a sliding scale of concern starting with infants and fading out near the elderly.
I remember watching a movie called “Arsenic and Old Lace” which was about a couple of old ladies who invited elderly men into their home and poisoned them to help transition from life to death. They felt they were doing God’s work. The movie was a comedy. If the movie had been about a pair of young mothers abducting infants and poisoning them it would have been a horror film. I think it is interesting how we consider the differences and the emotional response. In the span of a couple of years I lost a close friend in high school and my Great Grandmother. One funeral was a blurry spot of tearful sadness and the other was more like a family reunion where we shared some memories and talked about what everyone had been doing over the last couple of years.
Where is the transition?
What is the dividing line?
Do you just look up one day and think, “Fuck this. I’m out.”? All of the sudden people are saying things like, “Well he lived a full life. He wouldn’t have wanted to live like that anyway.”
My great aunt Elsie died just short of her 96th birthday. She was mentally sharp until a few weeks before she died. Probably sharper than I have ever been when it comes to recall of memories, names, or past events. She was amazing but I remember a common conversation we would have about longevity.
“Hey Elsie. How are you doing today?”
“Terrible. Hopefully I will die soon.”
“Oh come on now. You don’t mean that.”
“Why would you say that? Life is gift right?”
“I’m tired. Everyone I knew, all my friends, they’re dead. I sit here and hurt and look through the paper to see if I recognize the people who have died. I used to. Not anymore.”
“Well… At least it isn’t raining.”
What do you say to something like that? I can see her point. I would rather die young than to watch everyone I know being picked off one by one. It is like the cruel fact that there aren’t doors in dentist’s offices. Everyone in the waiting room can hear the drills and see into the rooms down the hallway. You know what is coming but you are powerless to do anything more than worry.
Elsie’s take on death sort of reminded me of the movie “Grumpy Old Men” when Jack Lemmon’s character asks Walter Mathieu, “Did you hear about so-and-so?”
“No, what about him?”
“Died of a heart attack in his sleep.”
“… lucky bastard.”
I don’t know what put me on this train of thought. I guess it was from listening to my apnea prone boxer who is around 87 in dog years. I vacillate between wanting to keep her alive forever and wanting to smother her with a pillow at 3 am when she is snoring so loud through the living room wall that I can’t sleep. Then she stops for a minute and I panic a little only to poke her and reactivate her fragile body into a deafening snore. Supermom and I both stare at her every now and then when she gets really still. We try to decide if she has suddenly died or not. So far…. Not.
She stopped snoring for about 53 seconds while I was typing this just to give me a little guilty feeling. Little turd. I’m envious of the boy who had to shoot Old Yeller. At least he knew he HAD TO DO IT.
Quick sidenote: Shouldn’t the movie have been titled “Young Yeller”? The dog was infected with rabies, not Alzheimer’s. Age wasn’t part of the decision to put him down.
If you waste your time thinking about random things like the turning point between tragedy and triumph related to death then I suppose this post is for you. You’re welcome you morbid weirdo. Ps, it is late and Supermom told me to write something so she could read her book and avoid conversation. See what happens when she gets selfish. Depressing, wet-blanket posts.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.