My biggest fear.

I freaked out the other day.  When I say freaked out, I mean freaked out.  I came face to face with my biggest fear.  A fear even greater than my fear of yellow jackets.

I’m not into extreme, but I am willing to participate in activities that entail some degree risk, what I deem to be an acceptable risk.

My biggest fear is none of the following:

I’m not afraid of public speaking.  I’m not afraid of mice, spiders, cockroaches, mountain lions, wolves, black bears, snakes, honey bees, riding horses, riding bikes, riding motorcycles, canoeing (ha!), river rafting, kayaking, the ocean, serious hiking– maybe I should be but I’m not.  At least, well, let me put it this way, I don’t worry about these things.  When I’m climbing up something my mind is focused on the way up.  When I’m climbing down I’m focused on climbing down.

I want to pet a tiger and bury my hands in a lion’s mane.

I choose not to jump out of an airplane but if I absolutely had to I could.  I choose not to scuba dive, but yes, if I absolutely had to I could.  I’m not fond of heights but if I had to walk along a cliff edge with a thousand foot drop I could, although I’d be most comfortable doing it with a paper bag over my head.

This is what scares me, absolutely terrifies me – growing old and infirm.  Okay, I try to be logical.  Both my grandmothers lived to a ripe old age. They were vibrant, energetic, talented, intelligent, independent women.  Both died suddenly, which, I can say as a hospice nurse, is a good thing.  My parents are alive and well.  And they both look a good 20 years younger than they actually are and probably act, I don’t know, 30 or 40 years younger than they actually are.

Yesterday I ran into a woman I haven’t seen in a few years.  I’m not quite sure when I last saw her.  My oldest daughter and her youngest daughter are the same age.  The girls were good friends in elementary school but drifted apart so really I haven’t seen much of this woman since say… middle school days.

This woman is, oh, I don’t know… 7-9 years older than me?  I’m not quite sure.  I just know she’s older than I am.

When I spotted her at the grocery store, I literally stopped dead, frozen in place, couldn’t move to save my life.  She looked 20 years older than my mother.  She looked older than either of my grandmothers looked when they lay dying.

I racked my brain, trying to remember when I’d last seen her.  It had to be within the past two years and I sure didn’t remember her looking like a 90 year old woman.  Had she been ill?  What on earth had happened to her?

She could barely walk.  Her legs had shrunken and shriveled to almost nothing, her skin hung in heavy folds and deep wrinkles like… like… I don’t know, as if some bulky, loose, wrinkly fabric had been draped over a skeleton – including her face.  She shuffled. She held onto her husband’s arm.  She looked like the walking dead.

Had I been able to move, I would have fled the store, leaving my full cart of groceries behind.  I don’t know which disturbed me more, her appearance or my reaction to her appearance.

I wanted to say hello, but my voice refused to work.  She looked at me and then right on past, didn’t even recognize me.

I don’t ever want to be that.  What if one day I wake up and I’m that?  Like The Picture of Dorian Gray?

I know we’re mortal.  Yeah yeah yeah – came to terms with that when I was a kid.  It’s just the thought of being so incapacitated, so weak.  I don’t want to be that.

I had nightmares all night, I swear.  Every single day we get older, and as my mom  says, the older you get the faster the days go by.  But I can’t be philosophic about this.  I live in terror of infirmity.

One of these days, we’re going to have to have a conversation about my philosophy of life and death.

British Beach Volleyball - for Tom

On another subject, hubby is very put out that Tom doesn’t watch beach volleyball.

And on another subject, I did finally watch the movie version of Stephen King’s The Mist.  I loved seeing three members of the cast of The Walking Dead!  Dale, Andrea and Carol.  Maybe that will tide me over until Season Three.

Note Andrea and Dale in background





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24 Responses to My biggest fear.

  1. My mother used to say, “You give worries enough power, they become a magnet.”

  2. Amber Skyze says:

    I think with all you do you have nothing to worry about. You look great!

  3. Casey Wyatt says:

    I understand your fear since it’s one of my big ones too. I watched my grandmother (Parkinson’s) and uncle (Alzheimer’s) waste away and it left a huge impression on me. But then I look at my own mom and she is healthy and active and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

  4. Penelope says:

    1. I was very pissed off about the ending of The Mist. They changed the original SK ending to a “Hollywood” ending and it irked me no end. SK’s ending is of course ambiguous, which makes it more eerie and frightening. The “not knowing” part. Hollywood….ugh! Let’s hit everyone over the head with a big old sledgehammer. Come on! *grumble*

    2. I can’t wait to get old! What I’m afraid of is the opposite….going BACK in time. I would never want to re-live my 20s, for example. I am finding that life is getting better, in spite of health issues, etc. As long as you take care of yourself (which you do better than almost anyone I know), we have a lot to look forward to. (Cripes, I sound perky. Help! Must rectify this).

    Off to camp!

  5. There are any number of things that could have happened to her, illness, booze, drugs. You choose some shit and other shit, sadly, chooses you. Not cheerful, just how it is. My point is that the chances are you won’t be her. Frankly with your list, I would worry more that you will fall off a cliff or something. S

  6. Ciara Knight says:

    All we can do is take care of ourselves and keep moving. You are active, so you have nothing to worry about.

  7. A change that rapid is almost always caused by illness or mental strain. You can’t do anything about illness and mental strain, well, you have to kick it’s butt. Or take a nap. I worry about getting old sometimes, but then my short term memory loss takes care of it. I can’t remember how old I am. Have a great day and don’t worry. It’s better to get old than the alternative.

  8. Delilah Hunt says:

    Wow… I worry about old age too, but mostly about not becoming one of those old people who I used to see in America working at grocery stores and such. I always wondered if they did it because they had no other means of supporting themselves. That’s my fear. The lady you saw, I have to wonder if maybe she was very ill or going through some heavy problems. I’ve seen a few people who look much older than they should normally look because of hard life. It’s sad.

  9. I’ll tell you, Delilah, working with the elderly and the dying? Nobody wants to be alone at the end of life. So many of my patients have no family. That’s what’s really and truly tragic.
    I’m thinking this particular woman must be very sick. I can’t come up with another logical reason for her appearance and it was so upsetting.
    I’m really good with the sick and dying when I don’t know them. I totally freak out when it’s someone I know.

  10. Yeah, I think so, Stephanie. I know her two kids are okay, but something must be wrong. My dad says the same thing – it’s better than the alternative.
    And you know I suspect I’ve developed such a fear because I work with very debilitated people. And I have a horror of helplessness.

  11. Thank you, Ciara – :)

  12. Well, Steph, I already fell off a cliff when I had my dog Louie. Actually he and I fell off three cliffs – well, one was a mudslide here in California and we were washed to the bottom of a steep gully. :P I’m thinking maybe illness in this case?

  13. Ah, Penny, I didn’t read The Mist so I wasn’t aware of the real ending. In fact I heard about the ending of the movie so I deliberately didn’t watch the first time around. The second time around I only watched the ending just to see what people were talking about.
    I know you want to get old and be the voice of wisdom! You are so weird! :D

  14. Cool, Casey. I love hearing about healthy moms. Yeah, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are so tough on patients and families. My beloved grandfather- I adored him – died of ALS. He was very young. I was only 7. I will remember him forever. He was the best.

  15. Thanks Amber. I think you look like a little pixie!

  16. Your mother is a wise woman, Marylin. I know why you are so devoted to her.

  17. You have nothing to worry about…you are a hottie..

  18. Savannah – you make me laugh. My husband calls me cute. It used to bug me. Just once I wanted to be beautiful. I did get over that… :P

  19. Diana Stevan says:

    Julia, thanks for sharing your fears. It’s a universal one. However, it’s a blessing to grow old, as I don’t like the other choice. I know many who died young. Our own daughter just battled breast cancer and she’s counting the days until she reaches 5 years, when supposedly, she’ll be cured. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime already- lots of joy and lots of sadness, but that’s life. My mother, who died last year at 96, was ready to go, as she couldn’t be active like she once was. Her mind was sharp, though, and for that I’m thankful. She was a lesson in industry and living in the moment. Chances are you’ll have many productive and healthy years throughout your old age, as you are full of such wonderful spirit.

  20. You, Diana, are amazing. And I am sending all my wishes and thoughts to your daughter. I think as moms we would take anything on ourselves so that our children don’t suffer. Anything.
    Your mom sounds perfect. Like my grandmothers who never suffered from existential angst. They just lived their lives.

  21. anny cook says:

    I’m sixty-two. Life is going by too fast. When did I get to be this old? I’m not ready yet. So if I live another thirty years…it still won’t be enough. I’m greedy.

  22. Anny, I’ve met you. I know you are 62 years young! You are one of the youngest people I know. Next time I’m out East, we’re getting together again – maybe here – my favorite place in Baltimore – Actually I have two, the aquarium and The American Visionary Art Museum!

  23. Tom Stronach says:

    Wow… that’s all I can think of saying about the woman you saw … I wrote a blog a while ago about my Mom who died in the 80′s in her 60′s and I reflected that over the last thirty years the elderly were in their 60′s then and looked old and yet today people in their 60′s, 70,s and even 80′s are so much more fitter and younger looking. Me, I want to go as soon as I am incapable of looking after my self

    As luck or whatever you want to call it, would have it and after reading and commenting on the last post about having never seen beach volley ball, I came into the kitchen last night just before going to bed, thought I would watch 5 minutes of the news and when I turned the telly on, guess what – American ladies were getting a kicking from Austria, I think it was, gave it two minutes – still don’t see the attraction but thank ‘I’ for the thought xx

    not a great fan of Mr King, books or film, sorry

  24. Tom, I’m with you. Going, going, gone. Yes, people are much younger now, much more fit. Maybe it’s because we didn’t go through the horrors of WWII? Must have been rough there.
    You got to watch some women’s beach volleyball! Hurray!
    Stephen King – I have never read a single one of his books but I’ve seen some of the movies. I hope you’ve read Charlie Huston – brilliant down and dirty, blood and gore detective hard ass stuff.