Tuesday, August 5, 2008

a year gone by

In less than a year he's been reduced from that man to this one. I hadn't even noticed, other than to see that his hair was whiter and sparser and he stooped a little more, but I didn't realize how much of him had wandered away, or been eaten away, by this creeping death in his body. One year to the day, yesterday, I was looking at pictures of my sister's wedding, and there he was, standing tall and proud and smiling, his hair dark gray, almost still black in a couple of places. His skin was tan. He looked more like the twentysomething man in his navy uniform than the skinny, breaking old man who peeked around corners in his underwear and diapers, like a child, asking for help in the bathroom. One year has almost done more than sixty, it seemed. Unbelievable.

She looks the same, more or less, looking every bit her one-month-to-nintey age. It's her memory that is slowly slipping from her, her mind calcifying into stubbornness and almost pathological optimism. Any information that is unwelcome, or different than how she thought it might be to begin with, slips away. So, conversations about his health, or them moving, or shifting furniture around, or anyone leaving whom she wishes to stay, flit away like birds as soon as the wind changes.

Why do our minds harden and rot as we get older, like the rest of us? Whose bright idea was that? Why do our bodies betray us, break down and fall apart? Why not, poof! and gone, in the middle of the night?


Liza said...

i've thought more than once that it seems like the stages of life come in the complete opposite order of what they should: wouldn't it make more sense if we began limping and senile then, through taking care of ourselves and being good to other people, earned middle age, then youth, and ended up a cooing, adorable baby whom everybody wants to hold and protect and love?

mamie said...

You both speak very poignantly of the changes humans (and animals for that matter) undergo. I've often thought that the worst combinations are dying body/good mind and dying mind/good body. And there, in your parents' house, are twin nightmares of old age.