Growing old and helpless scares the shit out of me. It’s no doubt why I wrote “Rest Home Runaways.” Because after years of trying to figure out why I write, I finally figured out I do it as a way to make sense of the world, to deal with all the things I find terrifying about life on Planet Earth. Anyone who’s read “Spanking New” knows I came onto this watery little planet scared out of my wits.
I used to think it was death I was afraid of, or, more specifically, my death. Until I dug a little deeper, I realized, it wasn’t dying I was afraid of, it was dying for a stupid reason, like not looking both ways, or missing my annual mammogram. The image of people standing at my deathbed thinking I can’t hear them, when I really can, and saying things like “Everybody knows you’re not supposed to make toast in the bathtub” caused me to waste hours of time searching the Internet for all the stupid ways there are to die. As if there is a way to prevent death. As if Death can’t find you if it wants to.
My Death phobia was likely the result of my dad being a doctor. He’d spend his evenings studying in his home office because, as he once told me, “If I’m not up on the latest cure, someone could die,” which somehow Little Me took to mean that some deaths are caused by stupidity.
My mother-in-law died this year. It was a great sadness. But I noticed that we all swooped in to care for her when it became clear she needed it. My parents are both still alive and, thankfully, quite healthy, but I trust, when the time comes, my sibs and I will do the same, swoop in and do what needs to be done.
I don’t have children. I figured out early on that I was way too selfish for that path. If you’re paying attention, you see where I’m going with this. Who’s going to take care of me when I’m clunking around the house half blind and confused? Now that’s something to keep a girl up at night.
Anyone else out there suffer from Stupid Death Phobia? I’d be curious.
Thanks to watching a lot of Hollywood movies when I was growing up, I couldn’t decide if it was better to be born a girl or a boy. Boys had to go off to war and girls had to go through the agony of childbirth. I mean really, did you ever see a movie in which a woman was having a baby–be it romantic comedy or drama–when she was NOT screaming in pain? It scared the hell out of me. I had all sorts of reasons why I decided not to have children but deep down, that’s probably the biggie.
So now, as I’m headed for my appointment with Social Security, I too am wondering who will take care of me when I’m too old to do it myself, esp. since the women in my family tend to live a long time. My mother lived to be 95 and both her sisters were in their nineties.
My brothers and I have joked about buying a big old house together and having wheel chair races in the halls. They all have one or two children so they’re most certainly less serious about it than I am.
Charlotte, I love that idea about the big old house and wheel chair races! My friends and I also have talks like this. There are quite a few of us who are childless. I will seed in the idea about wheel chair races! Hope you’ll check out my novel “Rest Home Runaways.” I think it will give you a chuckle.
You’re not supposed to make toast in the bathtub? Really? I thought it was okay as long as you didn’t take the toast out with a fork.
As a child, I was terrified of death — mostly the deaths of those I loved, but also my own. Later I was afraid of the dying process, which I pictured as painful, and I wanted to die in my sleep. Terry (of the improv community) woke me up to the miraculous opportunity to be conscious at the moment of death. I realized that there was no other amazing life event I’d want to sleep through. Now I’m mostly curious.
I do wonder how I’ll go, and who will help take care of me when that time comes. Fortunately, though I don’t have children, I have lots of younger friends I’ve helped out and I figure that someone will be available to help out. (I figure that for you as well, Clifford!) However, I’ve also thought that, if life becomes unmanageable, I can kill myself and be done with it.
Maybe with a toaster in the bathtub….
Ah… Terry. I was thinking about him just the other day. Met someone who was in a 3-way with him back in the day. Go Terry!
Yes, the idea of killing myself gives me solace as well. And yes, I am surrounded in love. But I have noticed that when things get rough, people often fade into the background. But who knows? Every life is an experiment. There is no telling how it will turn out. One step in front of the next. I think it’s the only way to go.
Breathe. Breath. Step. Step. Breathe.
Love you, Meg.
Your latest book was featured on the latest Woman with Words blog. So I picked up your first 3 books on Amazon. RHR definitely caught my eye. Will read it on my next work trip.
Yay! Thanks for checking out my site.