I dreamed I was racing up a flight of steps, two at a time. I felt so elated and light: surprised too. I haven’t raced up steps two at a time in years. These days, I climb steps laboriously and descend with extreme caution.
We live in a split level house. As soon as you walk through the front door, you’re confronted with two sets of steps and a decision: up or down?
As steps go, ours aren’t bad: not too steep, carpeted and handrails on both sides. Still, I remain wary and careful. It was in this house on these very steps that my mother in law fell and broke her hip. That accident was, I believe, the beginning of her long unraveling.
As Bob and I age, the layout of this house will become more challenging. Sometimes I toy with installing a lift in the foyer. My aunt and uncle had a small elevator between the first and second floors of their townhouse in New Orleans, which I found ever so fascinating and luxurious as a child. If an elevator allows Bob and me to stay in our little house in the woods, I’m all for it. This house is, after all, where I intend to die.
I read something interesting the other day, I think on the BBC website, the gist of which was that scientists now estimate that at least a hundred billion people have already lived and died on this, our good green Earth.
A hundred billion. Let that number sink in.
“If a hundred billion people have already done it, I guess I can too, “ I mused to my husband as we walked on West Outer Drive.
“You have no choice,” my husband replied.
Yesterday, my sister and I sat at the dining room table perusing old photographs, passing them back and forth. Nearly everyone in those grainy old black and white prints is dead: Mother, Daddy, all but one of our twenty something aunts and uncles, numerous cousins, and even most of our classmates.
If you, like me, are lucky enough to get old, eventually you too will count fewer living than dead among your circle of loved ones and friends. At 67, I’ve outlived all but one of my closest childhood friends.
I can still hear my mother’s sighing voice as she lamented, “I don’t know why I’ve outlived all my people. I wish I’d just go on and die.” Long life was for her, I believe, less luck than a curse. The last survivor of her extended family, she was acutely lonely in old age.
I haven’t out lived all my people yet, but I’m getting close. I miss so many good souls. They visit me in my dreams, but in my waking hours, I'm beginning to feel a little bit lonely too.
Part 2 to follow.
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Be well and good luck,