Sunday, 21 February 2010

Age is a prison from which we cannot escape...

Staring at my Granddad, I had a revelation. He's 96 years old- and looks it. His chin drapes leisurely onto a sunken chest, skin stretched thin and rough. Fingers skewed- he means to point ahead but points left without realising. He's blind in the left eye, deaf in the right ear and both hips are fake. And he has one leg longer than the other. Evidently, he has a lot going for him.

I watched him sleep in the armchair. Listened to the slight whir in this chest. The slip slap as he unconsciously sucked up streams of saliva running down the creased valley at the corner of his mouth. Breath too quiet, fistfuls of fear pounded my chest but the alarm abated when he woke with confused eyes at my expression. If this is my gene pool and I'm in for the same inevitability- I don't want to get old. Well, old old.

It has been said that aging is a prison- a sentence we cannot escape. Though we may try. Some yield to the surgeon's knife. Others simply lie. But these are no means of escape. It's mere escapism.

Besides, with age we gain. Love. Experience. Memories. The strength of these possessions can act like a remedy to the harshness of aging. A sort of therapy for acceptance. Why we don't mind the odd wrinkle around the eyes because we remember the laughs that made them.

But is there a point where aging- living - is cruel? My Granddad spends all day in the same chair, watching a TV that he cannot see. Images blurred beyond pattern recognition and voices a shrivelled whisper to his ears. He barely has the strength of muscle or mind to heave his weariness from his seat. He doesn't live. He exists. He crossed that line and now waits in a realm akin to limbo. Surely waiting for your own death- willing it- wishing for it- is a vicious hand of nature?

Reader, what do you think?


  1. I think the joy we get from existance is relative - your granddad probably yields joy from the smallest of things, things you might not appreciate. I remember a time when I would have dreaded being 29 - now I dread being 40. When I'm 40 I'll probably dread being 60 and so on - but somehow, whatever my age, I'm always content.
    *Read about my dating disasters at plentymorefishoutofwater*

  2. This is true, Fish. Very true. But my Granddad hates his life and says as much. He's excited to die. He finds no joy in anything. If he did, i guess this post wouldn't exist! :)

  3. this is sad. once you're that old really you're just waiting and willing death to come. i need some chocolates..

  4. Wow, that's a tough one. Great post.

  5. hello there! I added you in my blogroll.=] Check it out!

    Llama's Journal

    Add me up to please...=]

  6. Oh no- sorry Sarah! I didn't mean to depress anyone. I just had to write down my thoughts. It makes me angry seeing him like that. I have to vent or it will suffocate me!

    Thanks Hunter- it is a toughie.

    Darrel- cheers for adding me to your blogroll. I always appreciate new readers. :)

  7. Here's what I think: You will not likely become your grandfather because you will always be guarding against it. You will not lose your engagement with the world. You will not settle into a comfortable chair and lose the desire to get up out of it. At 90 or 100, you will find the poetry that you can't yet reach.

  8. Hi Lou,

    Wow that is a difficult one... I know how awful it is to see your grandfather like that. I lost my nan nearly two years ago and I remember her fear, but I also remember HER.

    I think growing old and life is meant to be bitter sweet - you can't really appreciate or learn from one without having the other. Sorry not particularly insightful or profound.

  9. Lou,
    This is an interesting topic and one dear to my heart. I’m new to your blog but am drawn to your beautiful writing style.

    I watched my grandmother struggle to die for nine years. The world around her had become unrecognizable. Her mind’s will to die was not as strong as her body’s will to live and so she remained the living dead. I struggled with my feelings of wanting her to die as my mother struggled to keep her alive.

    I know I’m destine to grow old like her and one day my feet will show the years as hers did, but what I realized watching her die was that she was ready. It bothered me that she slept the days away, but it didn’t bother her. So, I have to believe that when we’re old we will have lived a full enough life that we don’t care that we’re old, like my grandmother and like your grandfather. We will live in our minds with our memories of better days.

    Thanks for your post.

  10. Dunno. I'm 48 and it doesn't feel so bad. I think your mind adjusts to how old you are until it stops. No problem

  11. A good post again. But it makes me want to cry. Sad face. :(

  12. Bruce: Thanks. I think i needed to hear that!

    Tigerlilly: You're right, of course. Growing old is bitter sweet. It just seems sometimes that Granddad has all the bitter and none of the sweet.

    Buffi: Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm always happy to have to readers.

    UberGrump: You're not old you silly sod!

    Anon: Whoever you are, thank you. Sorry, didn't mean to make you sad! :)

  13. Great Post!
    it does make you think though, when did aging become such a horrible experience?
    back in the day the elders were revered for having all of that knowledge and experience. today youth is revered, and we dont know anything. we try everything we can not to appear as old and to keep that youthful appearance, its kinda sad...

  14. My mother became ill and old suddenly. One day perfectly normal, the next, incapacitated. She wasn't ready for it and neither was I, but its like every other part of life. You have to accept it and move forward because there isn't anything else to do. Besides, who knows what adventures are going on inside that sleep of age?

  15. Do you want to contact Brett Wiltshire alias Gatsby directly?

    Just call +1-650-2149170 or: +1-650-2149172

    He will certainly try to help you, just as he promised to "help" the German musician.

    Good luck!

  16. I'm with Fish on this one. Mind you, physical aging I can cope with (I think), it's the thought of aging mentally that really scares me.

  17. I am scared of being old and helpless. I am scared of he modern medicine paradox; it's so advanced, it keeps us alive for too long.

    Your post reminded me of my grandmother, who told me not once "live long, but never be OLD". She was 82 then, asthmatic and weak and I could see how she was digusted with her withered, wrinkled skin, frustrated at the fact that her mind could not focus long enough to read a book... She died soon after that conversation and I know it was a relief to her. Although I miss her, I wouldn't wish her to endure that half life any longer.

  18. Thanks for the great comments everyone. It seems this is a touchy subject. I suppose no one really wants to get old. I guess we just deal with it- take each day as it comes. :)

  19. I don't know. I'm in my 70's and I tell you, the view from the top of the hill is amazing. Now I have stopped climbing up I can just stand still and look back and I can also look forward with great excitement because I believe in a life after death and I am now so close to it. There are some awesome things you understand at my age that I never did before. I can see the big picture much moe clearly. I have time to write - poetry mostly. Old age is wonderful if you have managed to keep all your faculties, physical and mental. When you are younger you need to try to keep fit and eat right and always be studying and reading. That will help you to enjoy old age. Don't be afraid Lou, it can be wonderful to be old.

  20. Anon- just noticed your post. I appreciate it very much. I'm not afraid of getting old, but i'm scared of being trapped in an old body with a young mind. Tis the same for my Granddad. His body is weary but his mind is alight. That the two don't mesh well is the biggest issue and i guess mine too. But no, i do not fear age or death for that matter. I'd embrace it when the time comes, i'm sure. :)

  21. I believe we are growing not only in age but also in wisdom and grace as the famous byline says. When we are old, too old that everything feels weak and blurry, we are reminding the young ones to live their lives to the fullest and not waste their precious time in useless priorities. It is nice to see old people not as a mirror of regret but of contentment and sage.

    thanks for your post,
    quotes from songs

  22. Hi,I am 16 years old, (I commented somewhere else on your blog too...I am moved by words of everybody)...We will all grow old and death will come by...but even life comes by and so does hapiness...mind you, what we generally refer to as a nice day, awesome, amazing times and the sorrow after the trips done are all the creations of this mind which seeks permanent pleasure, right? You can't seek hapiness, it comes by, doesn't it ?

  23. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog. keep it up with this kind of post.


Go on. It's free...