Confronting the Past Part Four

I’m going to off on a little tangent today before continuing my memoirs. One of the problems that I see with contemporary American society/culture is the fear of getting old that permeates everything in our society. In traditional societies, and as someone with a fair amount of anthropological training I feel I am qualified to say this, the older you get the more revered you are because, as even a Western adage says, with age comes wisdom. In these traditional societies it was the Elders that provided the advice and council which determined the direction that society took. It was the role of the Elders to pass-on their wisdom to the younger generations- The children. And because of their revered status, the Elderly were not shunted off to some form of nursing home or senior center. Rather, they were an integral part of the family and the community as a whole. This is a lesson that I have stressed with my children for years now, I have no intention of dying in a nursing home. I want to die at home, in my own bed, surrounded by my family.

The problem with the way we deal with our elderly, besides the fact that we make them feel useless and lonely, is that our young people do not learn how to deal with death. My near-death experience caused Michael to have some serious psychological issues, that is something we are working on. He has learned too much the modern aversion to getting old and therefore to dying. Dying is as much a part of one’s life as birth is. Whether death is the end of everything or the doorway to a different level of existence is up for debate. I have my own opinions that it is more the latter than the former, but I am not here to convert anybody, so I leave you to your own beliefs.

When my mother died in the previously covered automobile accident, I was totally unprepared for that trauma. I was very close to my mother and I took her death especially hard. This was the first death that I had to deal with and, since we had no other family here in the U.S. and my dad was still in the hospital, as the oldest it was my responsibility to represent the family at the funeral. I was fine until they lowered my mother’s casket into her grave and then I went to pieces. I do not remember much of the next several months. I really don’t remember much of anything before graduation and then I went on a week-long drinking binge. That sat real well with my father, but it was, although perhaps a poor choice, a way to let off some of the emotional pressure I was under.

When my father died in 1981, I was living in Chicago and he was living in the McConnellsburg, PA area, not far from my brother and his family. My brother called me a few months prior to his death to let me know that my dad had had a stroke and was not expected to live too long. This time, I was able to prepare myself and was better prepared for what was to come. As I said in an earlier post, I went to see him and make my peace with him. I did not want him to die with us estranged and I did not think that having that on my conscious would be a good idea.

Since then, I have lost both my in-laws, my uncle Boris in Australia and perhaps an Aunt in Germany. Each death has been a little easier to come to grips with, the hardest death for any of us, myself included, is our own. One of the reasons I am doing these posts is to help me come to grips with the fact that I am an old man in somewhat poor health and probably not destined to live very much longer. Also, I hope this will help my children come to grips with the inevitable.


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