25 September 2012


Excerpt from a recent email to a friend ~

"I've been dealing with depression lately.  I've gone through episodes in the past, debilitating enough to warrant anti-depression meds.  This isn't quite that bad (yet), but life is still a struggle.  So much revolves around being impoverished.  My SS disability falls short of meeting my living expenses each month, even with penny-pinching.  I drive as little as possible, don't eat out at restaurants or go to movies, and am in dire need of a visit to the dentist and an opthamologist ~ I have a chipped tooth, and my vision is changing such that while driving, I cannot read road signs until I'm very close to them.  Gotta figure out a way to finance the latter before next March, when my driver's license comes up for renewal.

"SS allows me to ear up to $700-800 per month without deducting anything from my disability check, but I haven't found any jobs where my back injury wouldn't limit me.  Sitting is the worst posture, pain-wise.  Lying down with a lumbar support is best, but who'll pay me to do that, since my name isn't Li'l Abner?  Sigh.

"The other hard part is no social network locally.  My friend Perry and I talk on the phone weekly, and my book club meets once a month, but that's about it.  I let Match.com expire, it was useless.  Even family members are distant .... Thank goodness for my cats."

As I've given this more thought, two other factors weigh in.  One is impending winter.  It's nice when it snows a lot, adding beauty and quiet to the cityscape.  When it doesn't snow much, it's just gray and cold, from October until May, or so it seems.

The other factor is deeper, more evasive.  It happens to everyone as they age, and now it's happening to me ~death or brushes with death among friends and loved ones.  I'm no stranger to dying or catastrophic injury.  I was surrounded day and night during my year in Vietnam, episodes about which I've written in previous posts.  When I returned home, then moved to southern Arizona, my first job was as an ambulance driver, a time during which I learned even more morbid ways in which people can be hurt or killed.  But that experience had the saving grace of being present to help people when they were most in need.

That was forty years ago, and I've been fortunate to have spent the interim not often dealing on a personal level with the grim reaper.  (A girlfriend was killed on the freeway in 1969, and one of my two best high school friends took his own life in 1998.)  Inevitably, lately things have accelerated ~
  • In 2010 my professor, friend and mentor from college passed away.
  • In 2010 a friend and fellow worker underwent heart surgery.  Then this year the same friend was stricken by swine flu complicated by pneumonia.  Adding insult to injury, he contracted MRSA in the hospital.  Thankfully medication controls his symptoms, but he can no longer work.
  • Earlier this year my daughter-in-law's mother died from cancer.
  • Last month a cousin was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.  Since then her health has improved in response to chemotherapy.
  • This week my ex-brother-in-law died, a gentle man cherished by his family.
  • Yesterday I learned that one of my oldest friends was bitten by a water moccasin.  If others had not rushed him to the hospital, he surely would have died, given his age and diminutive stature.
Surreptitiously, death has been circling, affecting my mood along with other influences.  It is good to become consciously aware, thereby better able to counsel myself.  I'm lucky ~ most of the friends I've made over the years are well and thriving.  My parents, both in their late 80s, are still alive as well.  Each was among the youngest of a large group of siblings, so each has had to deal with the passing of older brothers and sisters, not to mention friends.  Here's a poignant aspect of their lives ~ theirs is the generation which fought during World War II.  My dad kept in frequent touch with his old Army buddies all this time, but they too, are dying.  I don't know how they've dealt with it.  I don't know how I will deal with it when my parents pass on.  It is beyond the ability of my imagination to grasp.  They've been in this world all my life.

I've no doubt that I'll get through that loss.  We all do.  Humans are resilient, plus there's no other choice.  I've survived war, three divorces, a five-year estrangement from my son, and the limitations and infirmities that come with age.  During a few of the rockiest passages, I thought about suicide, but never acted on it.  Back then, the thought was "How would this hurt my son?" Now it is also "Who would love and care for my cats?"

So you're stuck with me, gentle reader.  I hope that is a positive thought for you.  I'm reminded of the end scene in the movie Papillon, in which Steve McQueen's aging and infirm character has successfully, finally escaped from his island prison.  Floating out to sea on a raft of netted-together coconuts, he shakes his fist at the sky and shouts "Hey, you bastards!  I'm still here!"  Here is the highly emotional scene.

No comments:

Post a Comment