I got more than halfway through my 20’s before I looked up and realized that getting old doesn’t just “suck”. Getting old is absolutely terrifying.
Someone should have told me. We should be telling our children the truth.
Why is this at all surprising to me? Common sense, Heather. Grandmas and grandpas don’t just die in their sleep.
They die after falling down in their bedrooms at their son’s house and covering themselves in vomit before being found by their twelve-year old grandsons.
They die after emptying their bowels in the bed they share with a husband different from the one that raised their children.
They die after spending years in a wheelchair, nostrils plugged with oxygen, being force fed food they can no longer taste.
They die mouths agape in hospital beds, surrounded by machines and uncomfortable chairs.
They die under fluorescent lighting.
They die under sisters they haven’t seen in decades, bending over them and whispering it’s not too late to turn to Jesus.
That’s the way they die. That’s the way we die.
There’s no such thing as dying peacefully and painlessly in your sleep, taking one last full breath and passing gracefully. I’ve lost four grandparents in the last five years: tick, tick, tick, tick. They left with regrets and pain and muddled speech and cold hands, and they died with all the advice I wouldn’t need until later. Until now.
Growing old is terrifying, and not because at 31 I can see my skin start to slack and feel my back start to hurt. It’s not the invisible ticking clock or the earlier bedtimes, the lactose intolerance or the not wanting to stand during concerts. What’s terrifying is what will they do when I am gone? and what will I do when they are gone? and please let me go before he does. What’s terrifying is having to let them watch you pass just as ungracefully as everyone else.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking forward to being an old woman because I thought I’d have all of the answers.
But that’s a lie for another day.