July 7th, 2008

ozarque figure

Eldering; suppose I last that long...

I got to thinking about the end of my newslettering post yesterday ... the part where I said "supposing I last that long," with "that long" being until I am ninety-nine years old. And I have to tell you that I truly can't make up my mind whether I want to last that long.

I keep reading articles about how to live longer, and reviews of books on the subject of how to live longer; I read about Kurzweil taking fistfuls of pills in the effort to live longer. I've read a batch of articles recently warning younger people in the U.S. that they need to start giving very serious thought to how they're going to function in a country full of elders ninety-nine and older and still going strong. There seems to be an assumption floating around that any sane person would be delighted to live to -- and beyond -- the age of ninety-nine. I'm not so sure.

I can imagine that lasting that long is something that might happen to me. When my grandmother was a child a fortuneteller told her that if she'd just stay away from doctors she'd live to be a hundred, and she took that seriously; all three of her daughters were delivered by midwives, and she never went near a doctor till the day she was moved to a nursinghome, where -- after various episodes of doctoring she had no choice about -- she died at ninety-six. My mother died at eighty-six, in spite of an unshakable determination to get by on a diet mostly composed of Cokes and black coffee, and an exercise regime with no exercise in it whatsoever. I suspect that if we could have persuaded her to eat properly and walk daily she'd have made it to ninety-six as well. I do eat properly, I walk half an hour daily, and I almost never go near doctors except to do seminars for them. So far, that's working.

I suppose I need to define my terms here. Like what I mean by "eating properly." For breakfast I have a homemade bran muffin and a cup of coffee; in mid-morning I eat a banana. For lunch I have six crackers with six cracker-sized squares of cheddar cheese, and an apple. For dinner, I have a chicken breast or a piece of fish or a bowl of soup or a slice of spinach pie, plus rice or pasta or a baked or roasted potato, plus a small salad or a steamed vegetable, with a small glass of red wine. [At the moment, that vegetable is a small Sunburst squash from our garden, and pretty soon it will be Italian green beans from our garden. Lovely.] I'm blessed with a husband who is such a good cook that the food we get even at excellent restaurants suffers by comparison; it's hard to get luckier than that. I've never drunk any soft drinks, and I've never smoked, and I've never been interested in any alcohol beyond that one glass of wine (or one glass of Guinness) daily.

When I was younger I used to drink coffee all day long, but about the time I turned sixty I discovered that more than one cup of coffee a day -- or any coffee later than ten o'clock in the morning -- meant lying wide awake the whole night long. If there's any thing I feel "deprived" about, it's not being able to drink coffee all day long.

I'll eat a dessert with dinner if it's there, but I don't care much for sweets. Except for dark chocolate. I love dark chocolate, and my agent always gives me magnificent dark chocolates for Christmas, bless him, adding two dark chocolates a day to my menu (and my husband's menu as well) for the whole holiday season.

Still, as I know you've heard me say before, being old is hard work. Even if you're healthy, your body in old age needs all sorts of tiresome tending and fooling about with. Everything you do takes half again as long as it took when you were younger. All around you, people you love are dying or going into nursing homes or losing their mental equilibrium. All around you, physical things are getting larger as you keep getting smaller. And at the moment, the events that are taking place in this world are so horrifying that it's easy for me to imagine that we're heading back to a world where physical comforts are going to be few and far between.

Would I, in all honesty, want to go on another twenty-seven years in this mess? That's an interesting question, and I can't answer it.