When a person lives a long time, in my case more than our allotted seventy years, he or she thinks they know the facts of life, including that it someday ends. But just let one doctor say things like, “At this stage we’re still working on a cure for your condition but if this doesn’t work…” and you discover that life has new facts for you to absorb. Not until the voice of dread echoes in your belly and the feeling of dread sloshes around in your brain can you fully learn these new, interesting and exceedingly unwelcome facts.
When we’re young the facts of life are all about sex, in middle age they’re about money and in the last stages about loss and pain and relationships. All the facts have to be experienced to be truly understood. What we learn about life, when unaccompanied by feelings, is akin to “book learnin’” since we’ve learned it without experiencing it. We can watch a roller coaster and understand it perfectly well but until we’re in the car going over the first hill into the first diving descent we can’t really claim to know it.
In this stage of life, the final stage though it can last for decades, one’s main activity becomes Staying Alive. This is comprised of visiting one doctor after another to treat one ailment after another until the ailments are untreatable and unmanageable. At that point the lucky ones among us die, the unlucky live with dementia and/or pain and incapacity until they too die.
The interesting thing about this stage is the continuance of feelings of optimism and connectedness. If one is really lucky, as I am, one is in a committed relationship which provides love and support for both partners. A driver when needed, a nurse when necessary and a lover throughout the days and nights.
Old age is easier as a couple. Another Fact of Life.