“Different people age differently.” Dr McCoy said this to Captain Kirk, during the classic Star Trek episode, “The Deadly Year.” In this episode, Kirk, Spock and a landing party begin to age rapidly.
The comment, by McCoy, was prompted by a young female member of the group that seems to become older than do the others. This surprises Kirk, as he knows she is younger than does he. It falls to “Bones,” that is, Dr McCoy, to explain about differential aging. When I saw that show for the first time, the statement confused me.
First, my Dad and I visited a friend of his at the man’s cottage, on Martha’s Vineyard. He looked downright ancient. As it turned out, he was actually younger than was my Dad.
I was amazed and asked the fellow about it. He said, “He just got old fast. Too much stress, too much work, too many cigarettes and bad eating.” All I could do was shake my head, in wonder, and silently pledge I would never go down that path.
Then, as the years rolled along, I noticed differences in the members of my family. Dear Steve, the oldest of the five of us, he never seemed to get old. Even when the cancer came and he was bed-ridden and near death, he looked the same. He left us at the age of sixty-nine and yet I would have sworn he was no more than fifty.
Yeah, okay, I’m biased. Yet, Steve sure didn’t seem old to me. On the other hand, I have a brother who looks about seventy and he’s nowhere near that age.
Yeah, there was much stress in the life of Steve.
Then there’s my mother. The years have been incredibly kind to her. She sailed through her sixties, seventies and eighties with barely a blip. Health issues, nada, other than needing hearing aids. Mental problems, well, there’s a bit of confusion. Yeah, she slowed down, travel is hard and she needs more naps, but overall she’s done fantastic. May I only do half as well as has she.
Finally, at the age of ninety-one, my mother is old. I see her starting to decline. Getting around is very hard. She sleeps a lot more, her voice has grown raspy and weakness grips her body.
Driving, the very symbol of her independence, is now something she has trouble doing. To be honest, we’re all glad of that. She drives too fast and is far too reckless.
When we drive with her, it’s usually a contest to see who gets the misfortune of riding shotgun. I sit there, if I must drive with here, white knuckled; praying she doesn’t take a turn on two wheels.
You think I’m kidding, do you. My wife is not a small woman. Yet, when turning a corner, my Mom can create enough centrifugal force to hurl Jo Ann, my wife, from one side of the car to the other!
I know what giving up driving means to my Mom: a loss of freedom and it hurts. Then there’s shopping. Just picking up a few things at the grocery store is almost impossible for Mom. Cans are too heavy; paper towels are too bulky and the store is too big for her to walk around.
Mom needs help to buy even the most basic items. She’s almost losing interest in eating. As she says, “I’m just not hungry.”
Finally, there’s the biggie. She’s lonely. She misses her cousin Bibi, my Dad, and, most especially, my late brother, Steve. She misses her little boy, most.
I think his loss more than anything else has caused her to become old, finally. She just feels like everyone has left her. She longs to be with them, I think.
My Mom is finally old. I wonder how much longer that’ll go on. Someone said old age is the only thing people don’t cured. May her “cure” be so very, very long in coming!
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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