In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
Now, what was that word?
This happens daily now. I am writing something or speaking to my husband and what I want to say goes out of my head, or I can't come up with the right word. Right now I am writing to one of my friends about how impressed I am with her, but impressed is not quite the right word.
“I’m what? by you.”
I’ve been out of the hospital for over a year. I never want to be in a situation where I must go back in. I find myself walking more slowly. I monitor myself constantly. Am I breathing heavily because of new clots in my lungs, or because fear of “overdoing it” has caused me to gain 15 pounds?
In my head I am still 30, walking miles confidently, rising early in the morning to roam the streets and fields looking at stars and songbirds. But I am far from 30 now, closer to the end than the beginning. I am no longer invincible and I can’t find the right words.
I have aged.
Is it senility approaching? Is it Alzheimer’s? My husband says it’s “normal” for me to forget why I went into a room, or to go into a room for one thing and do another, forgetting my original purpose. But he is starting to forget things, too.
Not remembering words, or mixing up one word for one that sounds similar, or mistyping words in my notes is a terrible thing for a copy editor. You don’t want to put errors into what you are working on, you want to fix them. Toward the end of my last job I feared doing just that, and it was almost a relief when I was let go through a downsizing. Almost. Did my employer wonder if I was losing it, too?
We’ve heard of many famous people my age or older killing themselves because they couldn’t face the eventual decline, decay and death. The rock musician having trouble with his hands so he can’t play piano as well as before. The globe-trotting food writer-documentarian who is tired of the daily grind or production. The manic comedian-actor who learns he has a disease that will force him to slow down until, if he’s lucky, he’ll be able to move somewhat but nowhere near as before.
They all killed themselves. Or, they drink or drug themselves into a daily stupor to be able to ignore the inevitable.
Since my time in the hospital I appreciate how fragile our lives are. Each day I wake up resolved to use the day to its fullest. Each day I try. But each day I find myself worried I won’t be able to drive from Point A to Point B without getting lost, or losing my breath or having a heart attack or another type of “medical incident” like the kinds we hear about on the news. I have to separate out my anxiety from actual physical pain. Some days are easier than others.
But it’s the not remembering the words that bothers me most. “Use your words,” my niece tells her young son. He’s just learning to put sentences and thoughts together. Now, in my semi-retirement, I find it harder to corral my words in my mind, hoping I can repair the holes in the fences.
What IS that word?
“Tired of living, scared of dying” has become my mantra. There are seniors who have a more positive outlook on life. I’ve seen them. But perhaps they don’t put as much stock in words as I do. I read daily. Without a book I could not fill those stretches of time when I don’t want to see the bad news on television or have no other work to keep me busy.
There are times when I think it would be so easy to hasten the end, to just get it over with. Then I remember those who love me and would be bereft at my leaving.
Getting up in the morning is the bravest thing I do many days, and the hardest. I am inspired by the example of my husband’s mother, who keeps going despite the death of her husband and yet another hip surgery.
Inspired! That was the word. “I am inspired by you” I want to tell my friend.
The day improves.