You go to pay your respects to a man you haven’t seen in 20 years, a man who is 91 and has lost his wife to an awful stroke and denouement and is now failing himself.  Like many a young man who has won the hand of the eldest daughter, I found myself at the wrong end of his stick, that much more after the divorce.

But there he was in the small house of his decline, smiling and warm, his legs under a blanket.  I had been given to expect a sharp decline, and was uncomfortable disturbing his waning days – who is comfortable visiting the aged, unless it’s someone you visit often? –  but I needn’t have worried.  He was older, of course, but very recognizable and in good spirits.  It was a short visit, given to pleasantries and memories and examining pictures on the mantle to direct the conversation.  I doubt he remembered I was there 5 minutes after I was gone.

I am only 30 years away from this – will we have the freedom to check out easily by then?  Not giving ourselves over to caregivers and incontinence and faulty memories and severe limitation?  Or will I cling to life, like so many I see, willing to hang on to whatever thread, no matter the discomfort or embarrassment, for one more view of my grandchild or a sunny morning or whatever remains of this life?  I am so convinced of an afterlife, I do not feel so hooked into this one, but who knows how I’ll feel when I am in that chair?


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