For instance, Shakespeare has multiple sonnets on the theme of aging (a favorite of mine is Sonnet 73). And one of his most powerful play focuses entirely on the ravages of aging: King Lear.
While I could focus this whole blog on literature as it deal with aging, where my thoughts take me on the subject of growing older is more personal.
Over the past several decades, I have been the primary responsible party for various members of my family. The first family member who named me the "person to contact" was my step-grandmother. She had married my grandfather and enjoyed a brief marriage, as he died after they had been married 7 years. I visited her in the retirement home where she lived, and when there were special opportunities, she turned to me. For example, when a photographer came to the home, she could have her portrait taken with a family member. So she asked me...and I sat along with my son for a portrait with Grandma Mary. When she suffered a stroke some years later, she was asked who should be called--and she said "Donna."
So I transitioned into being effectively her "power of attorney" family member. (She had no such document, but had named me.) As I slowly took over some of her affairs, I discovered that she had stopped paying the monthly charge at the nursing facility where she was. And I discovered that she was really "broke." For a few months, my husband and I paid her monthly charge. But when it became clear she would not be returning to her room where she lived independently, I did all the work which got her on to Medicaid, a program for indigent people.
When she died, immediately after the funeral the family was gathered to celebrate and remember her life. In addition to her step-family, she also had nephews from her birth family. The subject arose--who would take care of settling Grandma Mary's affairs--and again, someone said "Donna."
Some 20 plus years ago, my mother died. While she and my father had moved to a retirement village and were independent, her death meant that my father needed someone to turn to in every day circumstances. So, he confided some of his deep grieving, and when he began to think about remarrying, I heard about his hopes. Thankfully, he did remarry.
But as my father and step-mother have grown older together eventually they have had to live in two different levels of care, in the same facility. And once again, I have been named as power of attorney for each of them. Given the care that nursing facilities render, that means every time there is some untoward event--a slight fall, an inadvertent nick--I get a call. When it is more serious--a trip to the hospital--I also get a call.
Recently, it has occurred to me that I am now the age that once was seen as old age and I am still being the "responsible party" for people older than me. It has been a long haul--from the time I was first named by my step-grandmother (I was about 34 years old) until now, when I am 71.
by William Shakespeare
That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.