|Before puberty <---> After menopause--->|
I am even more grateful for our wonderful time together after pondering the movie I saw yesterday with my friend Judy. We went to see Amour, a French movie that is up for several Academy Awards. I spent the evening and last night thinking about it. It's the story of two retired music teachers in their eighties. Anne suffers a debilitating stroke and Georges cares for her as she descends deeper and deeper into her illness. Emmanuelle Riva plays Anne and has already received much-deserved recognition for her performance. She is 85 and if she wins the Oscar (as she should), she will be the oldest ever.
When the movie ended, I sat there in shock. This is no movie to make you feel good, or even to appreciate at the moment. Judy and I went home to our respective husbands, and I relayed the gist of the story to Smart Guy. We cried over it together, and I hoped the catharsis of telling it would release me from it, but it was not to be. I woke several times in the middle of the night and thought about old age and debility and... love.
You can never know if the life you have together with your loved one might change into something worse than death. That's what this movie is about. How do you cope as you watch someone you loved all your life turn into a trapped creature who can't even communicate or do anything but hurt? I have thought about the ancient ways of handling this, when the afflicted person would be taken to a mountaintop and left to die. In some ways it seems more humane than being spoon fed, changing diapers, and getting bedsores until the inevitable end comes anyway.
It happened to my paternal grandmother. When I was not very old, she came to live with us after having suffered a stroke. She wasn't confined to bed, but I'm not sure that was actually better. She didn't talk, wandered around all day in her housecoat, and she would take on kitchen tasks that would make my mother very unhappy, I remember. She once ruined one of my mother's favorite pans by scrubbing it until it was no longer usable. I remember my parents dismay about what to do with her. Although I don't think the situation lasted all that long, she disappeared one day and I was told she had gone to a nursing home. Not long after, they told us that she had died, but the old lady who stayed with us for that short time was not the same grandmother I remembered from earlier days.
I am doing all I can to prevent the same fate for myself. When I was in my thirties I gave up cigarettes and began to exercise. Now my sister and I exercise more than most people, but there are no guarantees in life that the same thing might not happen to one or both of us. Or to our loved ones. If I could make a wish and have it come true, I would wish that this situation would never happen to me. Or anyone, for that matter. A clean exit seems so much more merciful, not only for the one who dies, but for those left behind.
I'm a little sorry to be writing such a morose post this morning, but here I am in my usual place, before dawn with my cup of tea, my partner softly snoring next to me, and my mind still wrapped up in what that movie said to me. I wanted to write about my relationship with Norma Jean and its importance to me, to tell you a little bit about why I love her so much. She's as much a part of me as my own body, and there is no better time than the present to appreciate our connection. We are whole, we are healthy, we are active seniors sharing our lives.
There is much to be thankful for, and much to cherish. My ability to walk in the sunshine, smile at passersby, and revel in the moment... I will pass those right on to you, my dear reader, and wish you well on this early Sunday morning.