Excerpt from the book in progress, DIXIE, by Lee Broom.
(This excerpt is from a chapter on Dementia as it relates to the final days of my father.)
“…….Father spoke as a small child. He wore diapers and nothing else. Knowing that I would never see him again, I acted on a hunch and asked him candidly if he could talk to me Man to Man for a few minutes, that it was very important. ‘Sure’ he replied. ‘What’s on your mind?’ For several minutes Father Dixie and I engaged in the most important conversation of our lifetime together. After a few minutes my aging parent heard his brother, my Uncle Turner in the hallway and he returned to childish gibberish. An hour later our family bade Horace Dixie Broom adieu.”
The exchange described in the opening paragraph took place in 1976, thirty-five years ago. I was thirty-seven; father was eighty-four.
Here is another story of the experience of aging. This is the complaint of a man I have known all of my life. In my view this is a person that I would describe as ageless. To hear him he is just a man. To see him he is just a man. His face has no wrinkles, though it bears the scars of the surgeon’s knife. Forty years or more of jogging in the hot Arizona sun has for some reason done little to age him but those same activities made his body’s protective covering vulnerable to the varying types of skin cancers. It is hard for each of us to accept the surprises that life hold for us. Here is what this old man has to say about that. And yes, he prefers to remain anonymous.
“People are beginning to treat me differently; my younge friends, my family. They treat me as one would treat a very old man. And frankly, I am beginning to see myself in that same way, a disheartening view to one who as recently as a year ago still received a lot of flattering attention. There are days when I find myself losing hope. I have lived alone so long that I sometimes have trouble understanding how to fit into a waning social life. I need income more than I ever did and I spend several hours daily in pursuit of a solution to this problem. Prospective employers often fail to hide their own fear of aging as they greet this old face of mine. And, my own memory is often in question. There was a time not very long ago when my senses reported dependable information. And, now with failing eyesight and painful joints, it is becoming more and more difficult to believe the lies that I tell myself in the mirror each day. The fact that I’ve lost what one lover once described as “a cute ass” becomes obvious within minutes after cinching the belt on my trousers as tight as my waist will allow. No longer is there that important set of muscles to hold my britches in place. Two hours a day at the gym only slows the aging process, it seems; my ass is gone for good and the chest is nothing but a garden of liipid paste, host to a graying hair farm. After my nightly shower as I shave and brush my teeth I try to avoid noticing that a former lover’s missing breasts are now hanging from my own chest. And, those occasional, candid photos of me reveal a very sad appearing persona. And, finally, after the bed sheets are drawn back and the lights turned down low, the classical music station KBAQ is perfuming the airways with the scent of a Parisian park setting as imagined by Debussy, I crawl into bed. And then out of bed . And then in again, out again, in again as I keep remembering last minute things to do; my meds, a handkerchief, the remote control for the radio. All my life I have had problems focusing. All my life I have had a bad temper. Neither of these attributes are as great a problem today as they were forty years ago but today they are seen as evidence of senility.”
Okay, so I didn’t fool ya. That old man whose words you just read resides in me and occupies the first two minutes of each day trying to drag me down. He doesn’t fool me. And he also resides in you, dear reader. If you are twenty, take him seriously or he’ll take you by surprise when you are seventy. But, when you are seventy, don’t even give him the time of day.