Thoughts About Growing Old and Dying Alone and Maybe Starting Up an Oldsters Commune
I occasionally obsess about how I'm going to be the last one standing out of Aidan and I.
I imagine that he dies first in a statistically probable fashion, and then I am left alone to whither and die in our apartment with no one to find me for weeks or even months, depending on the time of year and level of humidity. If it is a slow news day, I might turn up as one of those sad stories about people who die and no one notices until they smell bad or forget to pay their cable bill for five years.
You end up thinking about this stuff when, for whatever reasons, you did not or chose not to have kids, and the realities of ageing start to sneak up and depress you. Your mother's heart has a sudden but small and unsurprising age-related hiccup, or you hear stories about a local elders care home serving watery macaroni salad for Christmas dinner, and you realize that you never made the only humans who might bother to visit you as you spoon that soupy salad into your mouth.
Shoring up a reserve of occasional visits over bad food is a terrible singular reason to make babies, which is why I didn't do it, but now I get to live with this very real idea that I might die alone. It's a weird thought.
When you're in elementary and high school, you are surrounded with people who are with you at choir practices and sports events and school dances and on the bus and in class. Sometimes this incidental hyper-socialness stretches into your early twenties with university and crappy jobs, but eventually the number of friends you have that you go for coffee with and call up at 2 a.m. when the night invades your heart dwindles. This doesn't happen to everyone, but it happens to most.
Open yourself up and love on the people who both love you and are close enough to physically love on, because these people count more and more deeply the older you get.
I cast about in my imagination for possible future supports one time a few years ago, but I couldn't paint a happy picture for myself. I reasoned that I could concentrate on making and fostering stronger friendships now, but people near my age will be battling their own advanced age-related issues once the time comes, and the ones younger than me will be dealing with their own ageing relatives then. I could try to adopt incredibly grateful older children now, but it seems like a dramatic decision to make just so I have someone to identify my body in a timely fashion.
I'm sure there's a way around this, but more than likely I will be doing the last big changes of my life largely alone.
Maybe I could join a nunnery or a Buddhist monastery in my later years to find fulfilment and community.
Still, though, there will be no one to go through my papers. No one will go through the few boxes I keep in my closets. Any history of mine or my family line that I keep will probably be carted away by strangers. The objects that dot the narrative of my days will be sold or dumped.
It's a freeing thought, in a way. My ties to this life are at best tenuous without this incessant storytelling. It's an invitation to a release from the bondage of objects and the mercurial story of Self. On the other hand, though, it's hard to look at how we journey into and out of this life. We jump blind into deep ends at birth and death. Looking at it like this, though, I guess it doesn't make sense to obsess about the diving boards we jumped from.
I don't regret not having children, and I'd play out my decisions about my fertility the same were I to do it again, but on dark December nights I'm easy prey for dark thoughts about the consequences.
I think I need to establish a village of child-less oldsters. We'll own our property communally, share nurses, and entertain each other until the dementia thickens. I envision a central garden and a piano, and, hell, why not turn that garden into a year-round butterfly sanctuary that we can use to lure in children. Who wants in?