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.
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.