As I Age; What Next?

mirror scream

As we grow older, the experiences of our parents can offer us clues about what to expect, or guard against. Having been adopted as a baby, I will have to wait and see. I have no knowledge of my birth parents.

And medical science has moved on since my adoptive parents died. Gran survived breast cancer but later died of pneumonia in her late sixties, too young for the dementia that struck her daughter, my adoptive mum, in her seventies.

After a lifetime of smoking, Dad succumbed to lung cancer in his sixties. Mum had also smoked since she was fourteen. She gave up a couple of times, but was effectively chain smoking at the time of her death, as she would have no memory of having just put out the previous one. My present husband gave up smoking in his early seventies after a similar smoking record and has since passed tests used to diagnose lung disorders. (His bank balance is looking much healthier too.)

There seems little rhyme or reason for some ailments if one doesn’t have a family history to consult.

My husband’s father was perhaps fortunate to have died in his sleep, but hubby’s mum complained that he hadn’t said goodbye to her before he went.

Lockdown for covid has meant that neither of us caught colds or flu last winter – something of a bonus as hubby’s colds inevitably go to his chest. Some have been quite frightening.

I recall during my working life it wasn’t unusual for people to come into work with a cold, although sharing one’s contagion was considered more anti-social by the time I retired. In earlier decades, only the weak and wimpish took time off for something as trivial as the common cold. Hubby has been heard to declare he never took time off sick, and I’m fairly certain he caught colds like everyone else.

He no longer dismisses his sniffles as ‘only a cold’. The one he caught the winter before his coronary bypass nearly carried him off.

Do I want to know ?

To know, or not to know, that seems to be the question. Do I want to know what to expect? And when to expect it?

Certain discomforts are undoubtedly declaring themselves.

I’m sure backache comes to us all, and at any age. I’m currently able to stave that off in a few days when it strikes. . . although it does seem to strike more often lately. And with less traceable cause. Creaks in the knees and hips are less easy to dismiss and will, I know, progress in time to more serious arthritis. I have the knobbly fingers to prove it.

For now, the aches come and they go, but struggling up from the floor after playing with the grandchildren reminds me that stiffness is here to stay.

cartoon old man

How about you?

If offered a crystal ball, would you want to know the hour and the manner of your end?

Or would you rather, like my father-in-law, slip away undiagnosed?

18 thoughts on “As I Age; What Next?

  1. I don’t know if it is covid, that has made us think more like this? Just at the weekend my daughter and I were telling her husband off as he gets quite morbid considering when people in his family died, and the illnesses they had and how he might not have much longer. His son died aged 16, but that was a rare brain disease, and his brother was 57. I know family members who used to get anxious at a particular age when their parents died. My youngest daughter doesn’t like me talking about my death. However, having had a much younger brother die from leukaemia aged 15, I became aware that none of us really know. At that point I was loathe to have more children, having only just had my first, and wondering what world I had brought her into? Children’s cancer wards were very upsetting and made me think deeply in a way I hadn’t before. I was always anti smoking, having sat with my Nan (maternal) as she died from lung cancer, and then years later, my Dad. But now I see that my comfort eating is also a bit of an addiction. The answer seems to be that we can’t really work it out, but need to take heed of some health advice and then make decisions for ourselves. Another reason why I finally had to divorce my alcoholic, smoking, gambling husband, who left me with huge debt, as it made me ill, and I couldn’t live with all his addictions and how they affected his moods.

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    1. I feel my life has been without incident in comparison – not that I’m complaining about that. We have had (are having) our dramas – mostly medical – but so far are surviving them. And I suppose things don’t get much more dramatic than a pandemic, but even there we have mostly come through older but possibly a bit wiser. Reminds me of the old Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”

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  2. To answer your question I would not like to know when my time will be up. I feel that would stifle me and contrary to wanting to fill up my life I feel I would give up. Of course if there was a crystal ball that told me I was going to live to over 100 that may be different. I can do a lot in 31 years.

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    1. I think I would rather not know as well. I can shake off the occasional sense of doom that assails me without reason, but that might be less of an option if I have a reason.
      Also, I’d probably feel obliged to be more systematic about clearing out the clutter of a lifetime rather than leaving it to my children to sort out. Right now I tell myself I can do it later (next week? next month? next year?)

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  3. I had the opposite situation as you did. Since both of my parents were only children, we were very close to all three sets of grandparents – which included one set of great-grandparents and an extra maternal/paternal great-grandmother. We knew it all. When diagnosed with lung cancer, I was not surprised, but no one had had cancer there. Cancer was just something you had surgery and poof it was gone, with some minor/major setbacks to deal with as you got older. The ones who put it off died more quickly. Now, I take it more seriously – obviously, and especially since breast cancer can spread, in spite of being caught early. The other ailments have all caught up with me these last two months, and since I was more active than all of my grandparents, I don’t have answers. All I can say is that I’m ready from a break from old-age symptoms. My prayer each day is to get through it and move back to the normal times. LOL

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  4. I’ve always been healthy too – active, not so much. I’m having to work in the occasional stretch and squat these days to keep from seizing up, but otherwise, I’m probably doing OK. (What the eye doesn’t see and the knee doesn’t feel, the heart doesn’t grieve over. Until suddenly everything aches at once.)
    It seems unfair that my youngest, who maintains a healthy lifestyle that shames me, has had so much to deal with in a mere quarter-century: meningitis, serious lung infection and now an incurable cancer that can currently only be managed with medication.
    Life’s a lottery. It seems all we can do is tweak the odds a bit.

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  5. My maternal grandmother lived into her 97th year, it was only when her daughter was unable to look after her and she went into a home my grandmother went downhill. My grandmother was in her teens when Kitty Hawk took to the air and she saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Here’s hoping for my longevity.

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  6. I am hoping my ‘best by’ date and time arrives while I’m fast asleep. I’d definitely do not want to know the date and time of my death, although it does make me wonder that if I did know it, would I get on with what I want to do before I die instead of leaving it until tomorrow.

    Getting off the floor is definitely a lot harder than it was 10 years ago, but my life was different 10 years ago, so I kinda expect it to be harder to get up off the floor.

    My partner was convinced he would die at the age of 52 because that’s the age his father was when he died. 14 years on, I’m pleased to say my partner is still very much living (unless we’re both now living in the afterlife?).

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    1. But which afterlife? I have this theory that the reason we’re all so concerned about the planet and future of mankind is because deep down in our unconscious we’re all expecting to come back again.

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    1. At just 16 I was given 2 years to live yet here I am, 65 at the end of the month. I decided on my 18th birthday that I was going to live until I was 96. Why that number I don’t know, but so far despite numerous illnesses operations and difficulties I still plan on meeting that deadline.

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  7. It’s a bit of a mystery for me. My mother had osteoporosis (so do I – at a much younger age than she did, too), arthritis (ditto), smoked 40 a day in my youth (making me a passive smoker) and lived until she was 86. My dad had Alzheimer’s, and was very deaf (so am I without both hearing aids) and my stepmother died from breast and bone cancer (although as she wasn’t a blood relative I hope that I will escape that particular peril). I am already forgetting things (so my husband tells me), so have I in for a double whammy? In which case, I hope by the time I need it, euthanasia will be acceptable to those who both want to have the choice of going while they are firing on all cylinders and those who don’t want that choice. ‘Choice’ is the keyword. So yes, under certain circumstances, I would like to know the hour and method of my demise. My father-in-law passed in his sleep at the age of 59. I was never so anxious as I was until Himself got well past that age, and is now 65! I am already in the process of clearing things out and selling them off (but not Himself, I hasten to add!); it took 6 weeks for us to clear my mother’s flat and I don’t want our kids to have to deal with that!

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    1. Quite apart from what they might find! Although having moved out of the family home and again since then, I think I’ve dealt with anything embarrassing they might have discovered.

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