In a book I recently read (Deaf Sentence, David Lodge), the main character is dealing with his growing deafness and age-related body failings, as well as his father’s onset of dementia and refusal to leave the house he’s lived in all his married life.
In my 20s, reading the book would be a look into someone’s life and no more. In my 40s, reading the book makes me anxious and a little worried about growing old. Welcome to middle age.
One makes a choice to not marry and not have children, and it’s the right choice, but descriptions of old age homes or senior homes or growing old alone do little to make one feel like the twilight years will be easy.
I’m not afraid to be alone when I have my faculties, a body that works, and the ability to support myself comfortably well. But what if I have no one to care when I need it? There’s the usual fear of choking on a chicken bone with only the cat as a witness – getting found days later with maybe a few teethmarks around the soft parts, and the detritus of dish mountain attracting flies in the kitchen. A snapshot for a stranger of a lonely life, even if it didn’t feel that way for the one living it.
I’ve made some pacts – buying our own nursing home with friends, marrying a friend at 70, or ingratiating myself with my niece and nephews. But the reality is that I may grow old alone and in a town where I have lots of friends right now and no family, but over time, who knows?
It’s not nice to think about old age – about dementia (which somehow scares me more than anything, since I’m a very brain-oriented person), about incontinence, about being one of those stubborn old people who doesn’t tell anyone that I fell down the stairs in case they make me give up my house and be with the “old sick people” in a home.
Scarier though, is the idea that there would be no one to tell.