Opinion > Star Staff
Up the Creek: The Worst Heart Disease
By Ken Byler
I got a letter from a company named Dignity awhile back. It was a survey asking if I'd planned my own earthly exit or was I gonna turn the job over to somebody else? Dignity wanted me to know they were there to help if needed ... for a price. The letter got me to wondering ... do the folks at Dignity know something that I don't?
My bride puts notes in my shirt pocket for the doctor, telling him what to check and which moles looks suspicious. She's trying her best to keep me alive because, I believe, she doesn't like the prospect of living alone.
My bride is a beautiful woman. And I'm reminded often of how lucky I am by the old saying that goes, "In the beginning God assured man that obedient and dutiful wives could be found in all four corners of the earth ... and then He smiled and made it round."
My bride and I have been friends and lovers for 60 years. We started our life together living in a three-room house that did little more than keep us out of the rain.
When our first child was born I watched as she took the threads of life and began to weave them into something that only a wife and mother can do. She and me and the baby as three became a family and the little three-room house became a home.
We've been on a great adventure together for a while. We've been broke, semi-wealthy and broke again. But nothing passes as quickly as time. Now we're beginning to resemble those odd old folks we knew as kids.
When I was a kid I imagined that old folks were born the way they were. I thought everyone had a grouchy grandpa and great aunts that dipped snuff. Didn't all boys have uncles that chewed Red Man or Beechnut, and that would give 'em a chaw and then slap their knee and laugh when they turned green?
There was those black sheep third cousins that made fruit jar liquor, some so potent you could soak carburetor parts in it. Good or bad, any happenstance was reason enough to pass the fruit jar: rained out/dried up ... football team won/football team lost ... wife run off/got the dog back. Whether crazy, crooked or dim, I imagined that they had been as they were all their lives.
Now I know that wasn't true and it leaves me to wonder ... is it a blessing to see loved ones make it to old age and then get ambushed by senility, dementia or Alzheimer's?
You feel so helpless as you watch them slip away into their private Purgatory and you become a stranger to them. Is this the work of a loving God? I don't know but I do believe we're all given tests. The Bible tells us to be good in our treatment of strangers because they might be Angels in disguise.
There's an old adage that goes "the young go in groups, adults in pairs and in the end, the old go it alone. It's only my opinion but I believe loneliness is the worst kind of heart disease for old folks. Sometimes it kills them.
These are scary times for my bride and I ... We lay awake at night reliving our past and wondering what the future holds for us. As it is with other loved ones, will we one day be calling from a nursing home at odd hours pleading with someone on the other end of the line "Come get me! Take me home."?
We're scared ... not because of the economy or of losing Social Security or Medicare ...
We're scared of losing each other. We're hanging onto each other for dear life because there's nothing out there in the future that we can't handle ... except loneliness.
Ken Byler is a Star columnist, author and artist. Reach him at email@example.com
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