as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by death. Not usually so much in that I will die someday, though I always supposed that I would. I lost a caregiver at a young age. For some reason it still bothers me that no one told me she was sick until she was already gone. She was my great aunt, and is probably responsible more than anyone wants to talk about for who I became. She was an opera singer, spent a few years doing that in Germany, then settled down with her lawyer husband. Her daughter couldn’t have kids of her own, so I was the closest she had to a grandchild. Then she died.
Older humans die, I get that. Yet it irks me that we’re so terrified of it. If Christianity is right, we’re going to heaven, which is supposedly much better than this life. If there is nothing after, then we become dirt, and that dirt feeds animals and the circle of nutrients continues. I think I started wanting to die then, when my great aunt died. My parents invested heavily into trying to distract me, and for a time that worked. Ten years later my paternal grandmother died early to Lou Gehrig Disease, but not before an agonizing three year decline. I never met her husband, he died of heart failure two years before I was born. I never met my maternal grandmother either, died close to the same time. Funny how these things happen. So by my late teens I had a singular grandparent; my maternal grandfather.
The thing that still gets to me about him was that he absolutely had no intent on living a long life. After his wife died he became something of a hound, flirting with everyone, he was a delightful human being. Smoked cigars, drank like a fish for some time. He destroyed his knees in his early 80s, but he made it to 95 before passing away. By the time he had reached the point of needing constant nursing staff, I was filling a cna role at a local hospital, so the role of caregiver fell to me. I don’t resent it. I’m his namesake, and because of those years I probably knew him as well as anyone else. He’s been gone for six years.
It’s torture, loving fragile soon to die people. My best friend for the last decade has a heart defect, she could die any day. I worry about my wife, no telling how long or how well she’ll do. Yet I realize that I chose this. I surround myself with frail people, people who may not know how long they have. It could be envy, it could be guilt, I think it’s just what is comfortable.
Because of my focus on death, I’ve run my own numbers. Actuarial calculators tell me I will likely make it into my 90s, possibly even break 100. It’s not something I’m intentionally doing. It does feel like a reaction to seeing people fade away. I can’t do that to those I care about… and yet from time to time I wish to die. I don’t understand why I’m still here. I’ve achieved as much as I ever cared to.
Today my wife got a job market on the other side of the country. I thought about career suicide/rebirth if she was to get a job offer that could support us. Fleeting, like most hope these days, it does not look like it will work out. I don’t know where I’m going, because to me life was always like a road trip that I would try and impose a plan on, adapting as I go. This is no road trip, that is unless it is a road trip literally conceived in Hell. I’m talented enough to do better, I’m smart enough to think of better. Yet this low paying job is the best I can think of…. because it is certain. I could work for them until I die… and it would work out reasonably well too.
Nevermind that I am starting to strongly suspect I’ll never reach my full intellectual potential. It’s fear of missing out; if I go I miss out on near certain financial and career stability, something that I really thought I wanted more than anything. If I stay, I miss out on the adventure. That’s the agony of knowing, that whatever I do it is at the expense of some other hope or dream. I despise this short lifetime, because there’s too many things to do, and never enough time. I get that if I was dead I would miss out on these things, but my idea is that I probably wouldn’t know about it. The knowledge that every step comes at the expense of my hopes and dreams puts incredible pressure on me to enjoy my life, which frankly I do not. That is the failure that haunts me most.