Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock
Friday, Feb. 25, 2005. The local paper ran a feature photo this morning of an old man playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. I couldn’t tell what he thought of this; the blindfold covered most of his face. A photog grabbing this sort of shot is easy-pickin’s, just head to the community senior center. The wise editors ran it inside.
“Second childhood” is a shorthand, informal even anecdotal summary of various physical, mental and emotional deteriorations of some, not even most, old people. Second childhood is not a description of therapy, you moronic senior activity directors.
That man in healthier younger days may not have been an executive but he likely was not an imbecile. How embarrassed I would be if I was his child.
But what if that old man someday is me? Would I be parked in front of CNN maybe half-listening and half-comprehending and the home says, Pops, it’s game time! Would I play along for something to do or to just not appear anti-social?
Mom with all her faculties did go along to get along. She always insisted on doing things her way, until assisted living, where she knew in the first week that “not making waves” made life a lot easier all the way around. But she never did any of that foolish junk. (Her wonderful community avoids that sort of Easter-bonnet contest business.)
I see no point in living to be that old if pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is to be my life. But what if I was so far gone that I found it fun? Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. If second-grade party games are the best I could manage and it did brighten my day. …
Then again, what a waste of community funds, to entertain us old people. Why, that tax money used to lift my spirits at age 85 could be better put to house a murderer on death row another year, awaiting appeals.
My mom if she came out of her stroke would’ve lasted only weeks. That is no life.
The Schiavo woman in Florida, in a 15-year “persistent vegetative state.” If she came out, think of the physical pain she’d be in from muscle atrophy, and having at most moments not hours of reasoned consciousness day to day. That is no life.
The objections to some movie where someone pulls the plug on someone else in that bed. Those critics must have a looser definition of life. Oh, religion, too.
I can’t help but think how our hospital did the standard, pumping morphine into my mom for days until she weakened enough to die was far less efficient than the shot the vet used to put my old cat to sleep a few years ago. It took a minute. Less cruel, too.
But if there’s a chance to come out of it? Alas, that is the question for the family in the waiting room.
Our instinct is to live. The drive for food and warmth are just manifestations of that. Only a conscious person, maybe a crazy person, can commit suicide. Because once you’re unconscious, your instinct to live kicks in. Mom didn’t want four or five days of morphine-induced sleep. She signed all the directives and told family and doctors, do not resuscitate. Morphine is not resuscitating, it provides pain-free comfort. When the stroke rendered her unconscious, though, her instinct to live kicked in.
My wife asked if I knew why Hunter Thompson offed himself at age 67. I didn’t have an answer right away. This is my answer. As usual neither direct nor firm. -30-