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Kids, don’t get old.

October 19, 2009

Hank’s Grandmother Meggie was born on January 1, 1899, and died in early 1999, at just over 100 years old. She lived in her own house with all marbles intact until the last couple of months. When she died she was almost exactly twice as old as I am now.

I met Meggie in 1988. She was a Helen Hayes look-alike, lively and interested in life, but Meggie didn’t like being old. In fact, one thing she said often was “Kids, don’t get old. It’s hell getting old.”

I can see her point. She lost family and friends one by one, including two husbands,  until she had no peers; nobody who knew the sights, smells, and sounds of her youth; nobody who could reminisce about long-shared experiences. She watched people die suddenly or deteriorate over many years, one by one, until she was the last one standing of her generation.

Of course, when she said, “Kids, don’t get old…” we always asked, “But, Meggie, what’s the alternative?” She never answered that. I think, though, that the main message was that time is short and you might as well go out earlier rather than later. That sounds grim, but Meggie just had a different perspective on time.

I try to understand it through a pocket watch Hank inherited. This watch has been passed down through several generations of men in his family, each at his 21st birthday. The first young man in the chain was given the watch on his 21st birthday in 1829. Daniel will inherit it from Hank in 2015.

One day I was discussing the watch with Meggie and remarked about how old the watch is.

“Oh, not really,” said Meggie.

“It’s over 150 years old,” I said.

Meggie paused for a second and said, “Yes… not very old.”

At the time we had that conversation, Meggie was well into her 90s. When she was born, the watch was 70 years old at which time the first young man who was given the watch would have been 91 years old, if he was still alive. It is technically possible for Meggie to have known every person who ever owned that watch, although it’s not likely given that the watch came through her husband’s family.

My son was born in 1994, five years shy of Meggie’s 100th birthday, so she even met the next generation to inherit the watch. So, she’s right. The watch isn’t all that old. In fact, nothing in this country is all that old when you consider that Meggie, as a baby, could have been held by someone born in 1799, as she held my son born nearly 100 years after her.

So, what’s my point? I think that a potentially fatal illness can give you a small taste of what Meggie learned. Which is, I think, that you all die some time, and you might as well do it by minimizing the twofold suffering of loss and deterioration. I think Meggie comprehended eternity and figured we’d all meet there soon enough, and maybe sooner is better than later. After all, there’s neither sooner nor later in eternity.

Or maybe what she meant is this: The original design is that we weren’t meant to get old or suffer at all, so we’re not all that good at it. Suffering is simply not part of the “things we do well,” like going on vacation, walking around the block without getting short of breath, doing a full day’s work, or trimming a hedge without having to take a week to recover.

So, I get a brain MRI on Tuesday morning to see if the gamma knife surgery I had in August worked and to see if there’s more cancer in my brain. If you’ve never had one, you don’t know the delights of being stuck in a small tube, contemplating your mortality while the machine makes pounding sounds in your ears and other vocal-like sounds that say things like DIE DIE DIE!

I won’t have the MRI results until either Thursday or Friday, but I’ll try to keep remembering that life is short no matter the results. I’ve been extremely tired and crabby, so that’s going to be difficult!

Pray for good results, though, and that I won’t run screaming from the MRI room in a fit of claustrophobia.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Cristina permalink
    October 19, 2009 8:01 pm

    Some pink insanity to distract yourself with…after all toilet paper is usually white, and MRI machines are white…like a roll of TP without the core…what can I say, it’s been a long Monday.
    Canada’s top efforts in TP fashion:

    I will be thinking of you tomorrow.

    • Jill permalink
      October 19, 2009 8:06 pm

      Oh my! Those crazy Canadians. 🙂

  2. Lisa permalink
    October 19, 2009 8:36 pm

    I have had the privilege and definitely agree about MRI’s. It is a something else experience for sure.

    Extra prayers, hugs and good thoughts for tomorrow and while you wait for results this week!

    PS Meggie sounds like a hoot. She reminds me of some of my adopted Aunties, older friends who have taken me under their wings through the years and lifted me higher then they could ever know (or maybe they do? they just wouldn’t say it ;-)).

  3. Sarah permalink
    October 19, 2009 11:30 pm

    Thinking of you and praying for you this week,

    Sarah tee

  4. Mame permalink
    October 20, 2009 4:38 am

    Hey! I resemble that remark. (Crazy Canadians)

    What a beautiful story about the watch. Truly.

    You’ll be happy to know Jill that there is a “movement” going on now about the whole stinkin Pink thing. “Think before you Pink”. And it’s all about what you’ve been saying. Check out this book “Pink Ribbon’s Inc.” on Amazon. (or is it “Pink Inc.”, or “Stink Pink” I can’t remember, it’s too early to think about pink let alone how much it stinks)

    Anyway my dear, all my thoughts are focused on you this am as you brave these horrible scans. All of which will be clear. I just know it. In any case the scanxiety must be dreadful. I know how much you hate cyber hugs, but I’m giving you one whether you like it or not. (((((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))

    To Jill’s Mom and Kim and the rest of your family – you are truly wonderful and I feel the love from your posts. Wow.

    Enough of this mushy crud. :~)


  5. Deb permalink
    October 20, 2009 6:16 am

    Just a quick note to say I’m praying for a clear MRI for you this morning; I always pray for you, but I’m doubling my efforts this morning. Love, Deb

  6. October 20, 2009 8:14 am

    I had an MRI once, after Mom’s aneurysm, to check if there was a problem with the migraines I had at the time (they didn’t find anything). Migraines went away when I stopped taking HRT.

    The noise is so bad. I can’t remember if they gave me ear plugs. They should. I had the sensation that the magnetism was pulling at parts of me. It kind of burned. I’m praying it’s going quickly for you. And then when you get your clear results, you can party on!

    • October 20, 2009 11:30 am

      Sorry, I was logged in as Accountech. One more thing: today is Bill’s birthday, and he’s a very lucky person, so having your scan on his birthday should bring you good luck!

  7. mom permalink
    October 20, 2009 10:34 am

    I met Meggie. She wanted to live to be 100 and she did + 17 days. What a wit and what a common sense person. Years did her well and Jill they will for you too, go for 100 + 18 days, hear. You too, have a lot of common sense and wisdom and wit. Stick with it. Yes, the MRI is noisy and take a muffler along. If they can do it with cars, they can do it with MRI machines

  8. Jill permalink
    October 20, 2009 2:29 pm

    Happy birthday, Bill! (Bill is my very nice brother-in-law.) A lucky day indeed.

    I got through the scan. The worst part was the injected dye. As usual the technician couldn’t find a vein, so the search for a good blood vessel was long and torturous.

    To dull the sound of the MRI they let you wear ear plugs or they let you listen to music through headphones. Usually I opt for the ear plugs because you can’t hear a thing in the headphones once the machine gets going. Today, though, for sheer amusement, I had them pipe in a jazz station. Here’s how it sounded.

    (Billie Holiday singing “Stormy Weather”)

    Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky
    Stormy weather….
    Keeps rainin’ all the time

    End of song.

    The brain MRI lasts about 20 minutes. If you ever have one of your torso it can last 45 minutes or more and you get to hold your breath for 20 to 45 seconds at a time in intervals. I dare ya not to hyperventilate. I hope they opt for a CT of my torso at the end of the month rather than an MRI.

    Oh well, no news until Thursday at the earliest, unless it’s really bad news. Then they call you at home at about 8:00 just because they like to cause complete terror if possible.

  9. October 20, 2009 10:54 pm

    You are always in my prayers.


  10. Sami permalink
    October 21, 2009 4:12 pm

    I love the story about Meggie, you are a writer for sure. Hopefully when you write your best seller it will be a story on how you beat all of this and have a comedic edge to it. 🙂

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, may you have peace while awaiting the results.

    Take care,


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