Another friend died yesterday. He was a "friend"-friend, meaning I always thought of him as a friend, but have not seen him in more than 20 years, though he lived here in town. There were some serious legal difficulties many years ago that forced him to become more reclusive and I don't know that anybody saw him, except his best friends. He never attended social events that we attended with his spouse any more.
But still it is sad to hear of his death, just after I heard the news that he had been moved to a memory unit (not Atria) last week.
After I received notice of his death, Walt and I sat in the family room, in silence, both of us stunned and lost in our own thoughts.
For me, his death came on top of my doing some more in-depth investigation of those old newsletters I found yesterday, especially the Fat Fax. I was trying to remember who was part of that group. One woman lived in Ireland and our correspondence ended many years ago. One was a woman I worked with, who now lives on the other side of the country and is remarried after the death of her husband. One woman is housebound by physical problems (including obesity). Two of the members have died. The newsletters were written in 1991.
The newsletters tied with the news of our friend's death, because I had been thinking about my "legacy" being part of those newsletters. They were such a big part of my life at the time I was writing them -- all of them ... very much like Airy Persiflage is now.
And thinking about "legacy" made me think that I'm 74 years old, and wondering how many more years I have left. I am almost 3 years older than my father was when he died, and my mother is never going to die, so she will obviously outlive me.
At this age you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting to die. What was that twinge in my chest? Is it significant? My balance is off. Does that mean anything? What does it feel like to have a heart attack? A stroke?
What will happen to me if I have a stroke and become incapacitated? No way Walt can haul around this massive lump of fat.
Oh, I don't dwell on these thoughts, but they are fleeting, especially when someone I have known dies. What was it like for Gilbert those last hours when he was dying of a heart attack? I know he was terrified. That hurts me. And scares me. What is it like to know you are dying. How did Peach feel in her last days? I'm not a hypochondriac, but the closer you are to the end of your life, the more you wonder what it will feel like when it comes. What are the last 5 minutes like? And perhaps more importantly, what are the next five minutes like?
The problem is that if you are an introvert, you don't go out actively seeking new friends, so all you can do is sit and wait to hear about the loss of another one of the friends you have had for many years. This one has died, that one has developed Alzheimers (learned of one of those too, this week)
That letter I found yesterday from the Swap Bot woman is filled with things she was busy doing in 2012, which she is still doing today. She is older than I am. She takes classes, she teaches classes, she goes to movies, and she is always talking about new people she meets. I've always been bad at small talk and people probably think I'm a snob because I never mingle with the audience during intermissions when we go to shows. It's when I get a lot of my reading done because I don't want to face the inevitable person who asks "so what do you think?" I don't think until I am riding home.
I've taken a class or two, but can't bring myself to participate in the discussion, so I never meet new people. I volunteered at the hospital, hoping to make friends of other women who were doing the same thing, but there wasn't the socialization I hoped there would be and when social occasions came up, I made sure to sit by myself, hoping someone would join me rather than sit with others who seemed to be friendly.
The older I get, the more my social isolation grows, and I am very well aware that it is all my fault. I am also more picky about the people with whom I associate. Life's too short to spend time with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
So Facebook has become my social outlet. Those faceless people who will trade a quip or two with me, but with whom I am not likely to reveal anything deeply personal. Facebook is, for me, another opportunity to write a newsletter that unknown people will read and either like or not like, but I will never get to know.
Out one group of good friends is the Grub group, the Lamplighters people who were friends with Gilbert and who meet for dinner once a year on/around the time of his death. I thought we had come to the end of that this year, but people want to continue, so we will be doing that tonight. We have lost several from the group and two of them are looking like they might be next. But then I might be next. I now find I look around and wonder whose funeral we will be going to next ... and how soon.
It's the pits, this getting old business.
“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”