Horizons

The last week has brought Atul Gawande’s latest book (Being Mortal) to life for Axel and me. Our neighbor Charlie turned 93. He is doing amazingly well but he is of a different opinion, lamenting his shuffling walk and the things he can’t do anymore, like driving a car. He gave up driving after a brush with a stone wall and we are all better for it, except Charlie himself who has now become more dependent on others. He is lucky that there are others, but still, this dependency stinks.

And then we went to M’s 84th birthday party and kissed her husband goodbye, not knowing if we will ever see him again. He sat there, listening, dozing. People had not expected he would be there to celebrate but he did. M read a Gibran poem to us, but it was really to him and I could tell she was preparing herself for his departure. All the emotions are so raw now, she said through tears.

And finally we visited A. and her husband who survived a brain tumor but the aggressive treatment has left him a shadow of his former self. Axel and I are digesting all this aging business, or trying to, wondering what our time horizon is, five years? Ten years? Twenty years?

We are also wondering what it is like when one recognizes that the horizon is closing in. We are still considered the ‘young old,’ with Axel hitting 70 next year (I am a spring chicken in comparison); our friends we visited the last two days are medium old and Charlie is getting up there with the very old. We are watching all of these people age (mostly men at this point), trying to learn from what we see. But we don’t know what the experiences actually are and what there is to learn; we are onlookers for now, though increasingly aware that slowly (or fast) we will be sliding into the experience ourselves. Preparing for the inevitable is steadily moving up on our list of priorities.

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