Continuing yesterday’s theme of talking about uncomfortable ideas when all anyone was expecting was cat pictures: Let’s talk about our looming mortality!
The inevitable thought after, “Kids or no kids?” is, “If no, who will take care of me when I’m old?” In the fall, the New York Times ran a series on “New York’s Oldest Old” that destroyed me. Every article seemed to sum up the fears that had been percolating side by side with the questions of offspring and The Future (especially this one, about tracking down someone’s next of kin after he died alone and wasn’t found for weeks).
Thinking about my future as an old lady made me realize that it’s actually not that far away: If I pay off the car in five years and get a mini ranch/hobby farm/house with a bigger backyard in ten years, a thirty year mortgage on that means I will be 75 when it’s paid off. Do they even give out mortgages to old people? Will I be able to feed my animals and pay for heat? How long will it take for anyone to find my body?
The idea of a kid who will grow up to check on you is appealing. But I think having a child just to ensure a caretaker for your old age is deeply, deeply foolish: You may survive your child. Your child may move away. You may end up hating each other. It’s not a good enough reason alone to become a parent.
So how to cope with the idea of being old and alone? The NY Times is presenting horror stories, yes, but the dying alone article also had this hopeful part:
The solitude of so many deaths wears on Mr. Plaza, the fear that someday it will be him splayed on the floor in one of these silent apartments. [Ed: NO SHIT, reporter.] “This job teaches you a lot,” he said. “You learn whatever material stuff you have you should use it and share it. Share yourself. People die with nobody to talk to…”He is 52, also divorced, and without children, but he keeps expanding his base of friends. Every day, he sends them motivational Instagram messages…He said: “When I die, someone will find out the same day or the next day. Since I’ve worked here, my list of friends has gotten longer and longer.”
It’s good advice: Share your stuff. Share yourself. Be a good friend. Stay engaged and keep your mind sharp. (It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a lot of Instagram followers, either.)
I guess I just had to get some things off my chest this week. I don’t spend all my energy worrying about the future, but these are big things that are on my mind, and I’d been sitting on some links for quite a while, debating talking about them.
One day at a time, right? One day of doing 20 minutes of yoga so you can stay limber as you age at a time…