I awake and deliberately position my body so that I sit on the the side of the bed. Standing up in the morning is an event for which I must prepare. I enviously imagine an able-bodied child popping out of bed on Christmas morning—no rituals or transitions. Fluidity. Life force expressed without limitations. I can no longer rouse myself from bed like a young man, there are inflamed joints and aching muscles and the accumulation of a lifetime of injuries. For a moment I understand why we turn away from the aged.
People think and speak of life and death poetically and philosophically. Poetry, literature, myth and religions have been created to help us cope with and, conversely, add to the mystery and depth of our mortality. But nobody wants to witness the insidiously awkward and slow march to the grave.
I look down at my pillow and see a blood stain—large, encrusted; like dried out mud on pavement. I lift the pillow case and see that it has soaked through to the pillow itself. I gently place the palm of my hand to the back of my head and search for the wound. I go to the mirror and see that my nose and beard are stained with blood. I feel a momentary sense of relief—better a bloody nose than another infected head cyst.
On my walks I frequently see a woman who appears to be in her 80’s or 90’s. Everyday she shuffles the uneven leaf strewn sidewalks on a walker. Always alone. It is…beautiful. Breathtaking for reasons I cannot articulate. Perhaps it is her dignity and the grace that god bestows upon it. I greet her whenever I can. She looks at me kindly and says hello. The lovely young joggers with their firm bottoms and swishing pony tails do not register me. And I, for the most part, do not heed them. The hyper-masculine white men walk past as though it would be a weakness to bestow kindness upon another man. I play the masculinity game with them for my own safety. But she…she graces me with her attention and I give her mine. I am grateful.