Sunday, February 12, 2006


My sister’s husband had a stroke yesterday. He is five months older than I am. Ever get the feeling that mortality is crashing down on you like a ton of…clay?

Of course, it is the height of selfishness and insensitivity for me to make his tragedy about me. Isn’t it? Let’s face it, for those of us hovering around the half-century mark, that’s just something you do. You hear about the death or illness of a peer, and the first thing you do is mentally subtract your age from theirs. When the answers start coming up in negative numbers, you try to ignore that prickle of sweat rising up on the back of your neck. You go to the funeral, you send the flowers or the get-well card, you make the hospital visits, all the while trying to sublimate your fear that, next time, you will be the visitee rather than the visitor.

For me, my brother-in-law’s misfortune is a double moral challenge. Because we don’t really get along. He and my sister have spent most of their nearly fifteen years of married life seeing how miserable they can make each other. I have never understood their relationship, I have never understood why they are so dog-assed determined to continue it. I think it boils down to neither of them wanting to be the first one to give up the fight. The only way to ever win this interminable epic battle, would be for one of them to finally walk away and hand victory to the other. And each would far rather sustain the eternal conflict, than give the other the satisfaction of being the last man (woman) standing. Since they have no kids, they’re not hurting anyone but themselves…

All signs indicate that J’s was a mild stroke; though they haven’t completely assessed the damage yet, and haven’t, as far as I know, ventured a prognosis. I can’t seem to muster up much concern for the situation either way. I feel bad for my sister; I feel sorry that they are going through this frightening experience. But my disquiet just…doesn’t seem to go very deep. In fact, it’s more like it’s happening to some passing acquaintance than to my own immediate family. So I feel guilty, on top of everything else. You know how you try to stir up empathy for someone by imagining how you would feel if their problems were happening to you? I can’t make myself do that, here, because I really don’t want to put myself, even hypothetically, in my brother-in-law’s shoes. It gives me too much of a feeling like…like there, but for the grace of god, go I. And that’s way too disturbing.

Sometimes, growing old is like looking in a mirror and seeing a complete stranger staring back at you. A saggy, wrinkled, hard, cranky stranger.


  1. Welcome to my world.

  2. No, I do not think it is selfish to think that something that happened to someone, especially those in your family, can happen to you. I think about it every time I hear of someone dying. One of the blogger's husband died and I cried for her loss while getting worked up about the possibility of being in the same situation.

  3. Be gentle with yourself. I believe that feeling "there but for the Grace of God" is very common. I don't think it is wrong. And I'm not sure how any of us can stand in such shoes. Just do the best you can. And again be kind to yourself.


  4. Boy can I relate to this subject.  When they moved me to a room after this last surgery I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom.  They were very happy to let me do the one thing they wanted done before I could go home, but when I entered the bathroom and looked in the mirror I had a shock that almost rocked me off of my wheelchair.  My mother was in the mirror looking back at me.  I actually said out loud, "How the hell did I get that old!"  Life sneaks up on us when we aren't paying attention.   I'm with you it makes that 'prickle of sweat rise on the back of your neck".  Pennie

  5. But you're here...right?  Put that smile back on. ;)  C.

  6. Very honest entry. I think more people than we think feel indifferent yet put on the face of concern.

    When I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or passing by a mirror I always think, "Who is that middle age woman?"  Yikes!!! It's me.

  7.     Can I ever relate to this.   My father died at 52 years of age.  On my next birthday .... yup, I'll be 52.  It's strange how I have been dreading it.  I feel as though I won't  breathe easy until I turn 53.  It's depressing when you hit an age where the main topic of conversation revolves around people's 'procedures.'  That's where I'm at with my friends right now.  Maybe I should get some younger friends? lol     Great entry, my friend.   Tina