Thursday, June 3, 2010

A long life

I’ve always associated longevity with good fortune. It’s what I wish on those I love and the reason I do my best to live a healthy life (OK. Besides vanity.)

My husband’s grandmother turned 100 years old this week. And I can tell you, she’s had it. She has seen all her friends (and their children) and most of her family (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins) die. She is a widow who misses her husband terribly, and who lately curses him for leaving her here alone.

Her age has become a sentence. She lives in a world she no longer understands, one that has left her behind. Everyone she loves has built a life that (she feels) only includes her out of a sense of duty.

She is a woman of great dignity, slender and silent, who would rather eat alone than “invade” her son’s life (and she did indeed eat lunch alone at her dinner table, day after day, despite her son begging her to come upstairs, for almost 20 years.)

She was completely independent up until recently. She lived alone until she was 98, going to the store and cooking for herself until she showed signs of short term memory loss that led her son and daughter in law to fear she might wander off or leave the stove on.

She now lives in a home where she is the oldest. She is the only one who still takes the two flights of stairs that lead to her room and who refuses to go to the doctor. She shuns all forms of medication, even vitamins. She drinks no water, only a glass of red wine with meals. Of all her traits, my favorite is her lack of interest in being tactful. A few years back, her grandson told her she looked beautiful. His tone, although completely void of cruelty, was flip. The immediacy of her razor sharp response (along the lines of “go to hell”) left him reeling.

I love life. Sounding negative about having more of it feels counterintuitive and not very gracious. But I wonder how much of what I now consider crucial to my well being I would still have 60 years from now. I wonder if I wouldn’t be feeling more of an ever-present sense of loss than any feeling of gratitude or triumph.



Ecellent and touching reflexion!
Thank you Duska, you confirm what I had always thought!

Khai said...

What the heck? She doesn't drink any water? What happened to eight glasses of 8 ounce servings of water a day? I walk around this cement jungle of the Silicon Valley with a water bottle like I'm Indiana Jones or his sidekick, Shortround.

I enjoyed reading your article on your 100 year old grandmother in law. I will remember to drink more wine with our meals.