I live with shadows. They obscure my face wherever I go. I’m not the type of person you would expect this from, but then again, we should never trust our impressions. How nakedly free would the world be if we would be able to read each other’s minds. How beautiful but how shocking. Honesty is a well hidden friend.
It’s these things that wander through my old mind, since my body has given up on it years ago. I never thought my spirit could age, but here we are, how startling to see my thoughts carrying a heavy, painful burden, a cognitive rheumatism.
No one really cares about how you feel when you’re 93.
It’s a hurtful thing, now I’ve got so much (yet so little) time on my hands. Days wherein I have too much time to spend on longing for calls from loved ones or imagining things I would still love to do, like take a walk on the beach, but know I will never be able to do again, at least not in this life. I could handle these things well, if only there was at least one person who would care.
Right before my wife died at a horribly young age, the doctors told me she was brain dead. Her body was still breathing but she could no longer tell it to inhale the needy air. She would no longer hold her breath when I told her an exciting story or spend half a minute exhaling as she had learned in yoga class (I adored her persistence).
The way I feel now, I’m going through quite the opposite. My body is constantly asleep but my brain is desperately trying to stay awake, running marathons through a landscape of memories. I believe my caretakers would not come up with some magic pills to soothe the pain in this case. I am tired of never reaching the finish and I get stuck in the mud along the road way too often. It would be easy if we had a switch to still our minds, so we could do nothing more but follow our senses. Brain dead, perhaps it is a privilege.
The introspection of a regretful man must be quite depressing to read, though I have no intention to worry your hearts with that same fear to grow old like I have. Perhaps I’m telling you this to show you quite the opposite; how unbelievably beautiful life can be, if you only open yourself up to it.
I have never paid much attention to this when I was younger, it seemed to exhausting to disarm my feelings. We all experience hurtful, sometimes scary things that influence who we are at a later stage of our lives. The thing I never realized up till now is how blocking out these things ,as if they never happened, have turned me into such a bitter, cold man. It was easier not to smile, for what if I was not beautiful enough? It was more convenient not to truly love, so my heart would never again be broken. I did mention my wife, and I believe I loved her, but that never really showed.
We are such fools when we are young. Too proud, too careless. I thought I was only good at being young until I started losing my hair and needed two types of glasses – one to read and one to watch TV. You need to settle anyway. Then you do and you look back, hitting yourself in the face with all the stupid things you have done. It’s not just how life goes, I think. I see things so differently now I can no longer take life for granted.
I wish I would have fought for my heart to stay intact. I was a coward for avoiding the battle I could have won. I could have loved and put it into words. Perhaps I would get more calls now if I did. More letters, more gratitude, more respect. I was barely a husband, not even a father. So much waste my tears could never wash away the carelessness sticking to my name.
It would be naive to expect you to change your lives after reading this, but I’m trying to guide you through what could be part of your future if you choose not to deal with your problems and close yourself off for what could be a happy life. Don’t promise yourself to make a change tomorrow, start making that change today.
I am an old man, perhaps insane. You have no reason to believe me. But –and here it comes, the catchphrase- if I could do it all over again…I would love and it might hurt, but it’s better to feel anything than to feel nothing at all. I would be kind, understanding, passionate. I would not let my past get the best of me. It would be an emotional revolution. Birth and rebirth.
My hands are tingling, what a lovely sensation. I seem to believe in my own words. For what’s left of my life, except for afternoon coffee at a regular hour and trying to be kind to my nurses (for what it’s still worth), let me dwell on the hope that I might have inspired you to not grow old like me.
Get a hold on life before it gets a hold on you. A lifetime suddenly seems immensely short. An open heart, though full of cracks, means more than a perfect, closed one ever will.
Although this is of course written by me, I treat my characters as if they were truly alive.
I hope you will listen to the old man’s words.
We don’t want to grow old the way he did.