Getting older has its trials. You get sick of the endless “old fart” comics and jokes about hearing loss, memory loss, libido loss etc. You get sick of the equally endless round of emails pointing out how much better it was ‘back then’. Or the ones that ask if you remember what the relationship was between a cassette and a pencil. You get sick of being told you’re only as old as you feel. In a way, of course, that last one’s true. There was a meme going around Facebook (correctly spelled and everything) that said “Inside every old person there’s a young person wondering what the hell happened.” The brain is alive and well and firing on all cylinders but the body… the body’s suffering from shell shock. Not so very long ago I used to be able to stand with my feet together, and rest my palms on the floor in front of me. These days it’s a painful struggle to put on a pair of socks.
You’re probably wondering what caused this particular rant. Death. That’s what. I read a blog post this morning written by an online friend. She related the demise of a backyard robin at the paws of next door’s cat, then talked about three human deaths, all different, with different impacts on the living. One stood out to me – the fellow who had a massive heart attack. The doctor wouldn’t accept death and tried all manner of invasive treatments to resurrect him. In the end, his son told the doctors to let him go. And the blogger related the story of the deceased as he’d been eighteen months before, aware of his mortality, aware of the limitations caused by his condition, and resigned – even content – that death comes at the end.
An hour or two later I read an article written by Graham Richardson, well-known political commentator and a stalwart of the Hawke government. About the same age as me, he explained how he’d been diagnosed with cancer in 1999. How he should have sought treatment earlier, but being a typical bloke, didn’t. The first op kind of worked, but some of the deadly cells remained to spring up and grow again. As they do. The article (in the Weekend Australian 4th July 2015) is well worth a read, and gives an insight into chemotherapy, cancer treatment, and its effects. It now seems Richo will have to have an operation to remove his bladder, bowel, prostate, colon and rectum. He will be fitted with colostomy bags which would have to be emptied regularly. The man is already in constant pain.
And I thought to myself, “Not me.” When you get to your mid-sixties you can pretty much guarantee you will have seen death in many different guises. My mother died of bowel cancer, as did my oldest sister. Another sister wiled away the last years of her life in an old folks’ home where she needed help for just about everything. Three or four people I know died of pancreatic cancer, the one where the diagnosis is always too late. The doctors can take bits out of you to offer a semblance of being alive, but who wants to live like that?
Well, let me tell you, folks, when the seven-foot skeleton with the scythe and the brilliant blue orbs in his eye sockets comes to call, if the options are the living death of constant pain, or being eviscerated, or coughing my lungs into a handkerchief, I’ll move along, thanks.