Last week, for work, I had to go to a mini conference for senior citizens. I usually hang out with the other end of the spectrum and am far more likely to be dealing with teething than osteoarthritis, but hell, I am not getting any younger, and my boss did not want to go, and I thought I might learn a thing or two. Having had to diaper my daughter and my grandmother at the same time several years ago, I have a pretty good idea of the circularity of human existence.
But as I sat in a room full of my elders, I was pulled up short by the contrast of our current national obsession with birthing and the absolute silence about the other end. I have read poetry and literature and comedy about mothering and babies. Who is asking the questions:
How will I grow old?
What is the process of dying?
Who is writing the literature of THAT?
It’s a universal experience and no one really talks about it, except as it shows up in the service of other narratives. I am sure we will get around to it when we stop denying that its going to happen. There is a lot more money to be made by denying that something that happens to everyone is going to happen. By staunchly trying to defeat the process of dying we spend gazillions on research and panaceas and snake oil and afterlife. But sooner or later they will figure out a way to market aging and dying and then we will hear a lot more about it. But cynicism aside—how will I grow old? Will I rage rage against the dying of the light, against the wrinkles and sags and pouches, or will I settle in to my well worn self and become the person I am supposed to be? Since we have spent so much time denying or avoiding the fact that folks get old, we haven’t figured out what to do with the millions who are inconveniently not staying young. We don’t really have the social structures and webs of community these days meant to weave them into our fast paced life. If you never got on to the information superhighway, what backwater are you left in? When our history is still walking around talking to us, how to we curl up and read it? Contemplate the lessons, reflect on how if affects us?
How will I grow old?