Mother Dear just moved into a very nice apartment building for seasoned citizens in Tampa, FL. My Betrothed and I are ensconced in a guest apartment on the third of five floors.
Mother Dear isn’t answering her door and the Gal Pal is on a walk. So I’m recovering from my “hot as Hades” morning run by watching the Olympics in the internet cafe. Next, I head to breakfast with the Tampa Tribune sports page. Dallas Clark, the Bucs new tight end, is healthier than expected.
I eventually glance up, and when I do, there’s a grey haired man staring blankly at me. I set the paper on the floor and chat up Marvin, a former technical writer from New York City. He’s happy to answer my questions, but doesn’t ask any. Come on Marv, work with me.
On one level, Marvin is living large. There’s about four or five women for every man in this joint and he’s more mobile than most. But on the other side of the ledger, his memory is failing him. That, in combination with being surrounded by elderly people, makes me think about getting older.
I ask Marvin how old he is and the wheel in his head spins wildly just like when I asked about his apartment number and what his daughter teaches. He was embarrassed he couldn’t remember either one. He also couldn’t recall his age, but he knew he was born in 1933. I told him he was 79 and that brought a smile of recognition. In hindsight, given all the eligible women he’s constantly surrounded by, I should have written his apartment number down for him.
The end of life isn’t really funny. The body breaks down. And the mind. The past, a source of strength for most people, inevitably blurs. Friends die. Loneliness looms. And there’s no promise of watching future Olympics or seeing grandchildren marry.
But with the support of family and friends, it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly sad either. My sister has pressed pause on her own life and taken my mom under her wing for the last month. Spending day after day wading through her too many possessions, the move would have been impossible without her. My sister’s daughter, my niece, decided to attend the University of Tampa in part to provide Mother Dear moral and practical support. She’s partnering with my sister to smooth the move.
Sitting here, post-waffle, back in the internet cafe once again watching NBC commercials interspersed with athletic competition, I can’t help but think about my own future. How long will I live? How about my Betrothed? Will I lose my ability to walk unassisted? To drive? To live independently? Will I lose my memory? The answer to the last four questions is most likely yes. The passing of time is the great equalizer.
I don’t want to be a burden, but when the time comes that I can’t remember my age, will my daughters press pause on their lives long enough to help me pass into the final chapter of my life as peacefully as possible? More importantly, will I live this next week, month, and year to the fullest given the limits of time? Will I take risks, teach well, love deeply, live purposely?
A sunny, early August Tampa morning filled with many more questions than answers.