Loneliness and age

So earlier today the wife, the kids and I visited Norma.

Norma is the wife’s grandmother. She’s about to turn 93, and blows my mind. Norma drives like a normal person. Norma looks, oh, 70. Norma works out at the gym three days a week, takes lengthy walks three days a week, plays bridge regularly and golfs nine holes , oh, every other week. In short, she is exactly who you want to be when you’re 93; the personification of positive aging.

And yet …

It sometimes hurts me to see Norma, because she offers a gateway into aging well when those around you age, ahem, not so well. For example, a few months back Norma lost Ed, her 91-year-old boyfriend. Ed was the center of Norma’s social circle. They went to the theatre, to movies, to dinner nightly. He was a good guy who made her happy and now, sadly, he’s gone. This happens quite a bit when you’re 93 and healthy. People fade. Quickly. They’re here one day, gone, literally, the next. During our visit Norma pulled out a photo album from a 70th birthday party she threw her husband in 1984. It was filled with gleeful photos from a gleeful evening, and I genuinely enjoyed seeing them. Then, glumly, Norma said, “Probably 70-75 of the people there are now dead.”

The comment hung in the air for me. Because, inevitably, we’ll all be the people in those photos. Today’s bright pictures will fade; today’s cool and modern and hip and dope will, before long, be outdated. Justin Bieber will eventually gray and wrinkle. So will Selena Gomez. And Lady Gaga. And … all of us. It’s inevitable, and sad, and I often wonder whether the kinships we form are genuine kinships. In other words, are friends there until the end, or do we truly die all alone, one way or another?

I would love to be just like Norma. She began in my life as my wife’s grandma, and has evolved into a true role model. Again, you could not age any better. Not possible.

And yet, I also hurt for her. Because it’s not easy.

PS: The man in the photo is no one related to this.