Only Child on fears about getting old

Only Child with Mom and Dad in the early 1960s.

Only Child with Mom and Dad in the early 1960s.

A artist friend has sent out a survey of four questions on aging for those 60 years and over. The survey is in connection with an art show she is exhibiting in fall 2017. I haven’t done the survey yet, but the first question has really got me thinking. Her question?

As a woman approaching/over the age of 60, what is my greatest fear?

Before I answer it, I’m going back to my mother and my father as their lives as seniors or almost seniors are influencing me.

My father had some form of cancer the last six years of his life. An operation that removed half a lung stopped the cancer there, but it spread to his brain and surfaced twice in two different places. Radiation stopped it in the one area, but four years later it returned in another area of his brain. That one killed him. He was 66, So much for three times is a charm – unless it is a bad charm.  At least Mom and I were with him at the end. I was 16 and despite expecting this to happen, still felt the loss. We had all gone through so much suffering and for this?

After Dad died, Mom was never the same. She had lost her soul mate and her body began to betray her. Arthritis appeared in mega-doses – rheumatoid arthritis in her hands, feet and ankles, causing much pain and disfigurement. If that weren’t enough, God threw in something just as bad – schleroderma – which attacked her insides and her face – hard puffy cheeks and a low (as in not loud, not timbre) almost squeaky voice. She had lost her autonomy and no  matter what her youngest sister and I did, she got worse. She decided to downsize to an apartment and so began the long job of getting rid of stuff. Looking back, I wished I had done more. But I was a typical late teens adolescent, although I was working at my first job as a secretary for the Ontario Government. My boyfriend (later my husband) stepped in to help and organized the two of us to at least get some of the smaller stuff to the apartment, stuff we didn’t want to go in the moving truck. He didn’t have a car or drive then. So there we were, making many trips back and forth (a five-block walk) with as much stuff as possible crammed into her bundle buggy.  And once we were moved to the apartment, I took over most of the grocery shopping, including paying for groceries. But she helped – she taught me how to budget and how to shop. Something I use to this day.

Mom would visit her sister on her sister’s farm in western Ontario but that brought problems too. She fell on the steps (two steps) and back home, she fell off her vanity bench. The latter sent her into a coma and despite an operation, she died five days later, officially of a brain aneurysm. I say arthritis killed her. It happened to fast and I, at 22, was in a daze. Her sister, my godmother, took me back to the farm to heal. But a few days don’t heal. Especially when Mom died at 63.

So, here I sit, in my late 60s, surpassing both my parents in age, and faced with Ramune’s first question.

As a woman approaching/over the age of 60, what is my greatest fear?

It’s a multiple answer, hung together by three words “losing my health.” The litany for that goes something like this. “I fear getting cancer, any cancer, stroke or aneurysm, completing losing any of my senses (and in the last year I’ve had a taste of temporarily losing 85 per cent of my hearing and being threatened with going blind in one eye), losing my mobility and losing my mind.”

Any of those could put me over the deep end. I am not one to wait it out and/or live life not to its fullest. I would like to live to 80, barring the above happening (and I do have health issues which at this point I live with – complaining a lot of course). If any of the above in quotations happens, get me out of here.

Funny, I don’t even consider heart issues as a fear. Maybe I think I could deal with that?

What is  your greatest fear in life? No matter what your age now.

Comments, please.



Only Child Writes

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Only Child at 13  and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

The teenage Only Child with her late mother who inspired her to do good deeds

The teenage Only Child with her late mother



Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, cancer, Dad, Death and Dying, Family, Health Seniors, Mom and Dad, Only child, Seniors

4 responses to “Only Child on fears about getting old

  1. Valerie Meadows

    Sharon, I don’t know you other than to have attended one memoir workshop a couple of years ago after having been “retired” from my 38-year job as a “secretary”/admin assistant/receptionist/den mother at a major Toronto Bank. Always wanted to be a writer but never did anything about it other than a three-year stab at writing humorous articles for major newspapers. Now that I am retired, and actually have time to write, I find myself to be too lazy or over-wrought and cannot be bothered. Part of that relates to the fact that I expect to be paid for my words, and, similar to the world of art and music, that whole scene has changed dramatically in the past few years. Even the Globe & Mail no longer pays for their essays, and the quality reflects that.

    That being said, I must say that I do enjoy your Blog rants, even though I sometimes feel you might be better served focusing less on the everyday frustrations that we all face and expound more on broader issues. However, I always relate to your anger and annoyance about the little things we cannot control. Most of your issues, worries and anxieties are the same as mine and all our neighbours. Your life situation is also quite similar, right down to weird little things such as not driving and relying on a “bundle buggy” to haul home all the necessities of life that will fit into a cart. God forbid we should require anything that doesn’t fit–we would simply go without rather than impose on friends or relatives who dirve.! The similarities are many, even right down to both having one son, both working musicians no less, and both steel players of all things (!).

    Regarding your worries about health and ageing, I’ve been wondering if it is normal to feel a bit depressed (for lack of a better word) once reaching the official senior citizen mark. It’s as if it came out of nowhere and all of a sudden being blind-sided by the reality that anything could happen at any time–that our lives are no longer a vast and never-ending stretch of opportunities. Especially when you feel that you are finally, finally becoming comfortable with yourself and just starting to get your life in order. Yes, it’s unsettling to look around, or read the news, or learn of friends and relatives suddenly becoming helpless or dropping dead with no warning. I don’t recall noticing these things so much when I was younger, but that is the thing about getting older. Everyone else is ageing as well, right along with us, and it is natural to become more aware of our mortality. There is much less time ahead of us than behind us, and it truly does come as a shock. So, yes, I think it is perfectly normal, healthy and rational to acknowledge that. And, yes, I agree that taking care of our health as much as we can is the best, and only, insurance we have to ensure we keep on enjoying our lives for as long as we can. Still lots of wonderful years ahead! Worrying less about those things we can’t control is probably the best advice for folks in our age group.

    If we don’t stop fretting and worrying about the small (and the big) stuff now, when will we ever do it? But, I am no one to talk, even though I know better. Still keep myself awake all night worrying about situations that eventually resolve themselves on their own anyway. I think the best thing for people our age and older to do is to simply carry on as we have always done and stop worrying about how and when it all will end.

    Cheers, and all the best to you with your writing,

    • Hope you don’t mind that I posted your comment in its entirety. But it says it exactly and succinctly – what it is to be growing old(er). Your wise words on carrying on and stop worrying especially hit home as I’m a real worry wart although I do come by it honestly. My late mother would win the prize for Queen of the Worry Warts.

      Your words reminded of the late John Lennon’s philosophy of living life day by day. And considering what happened to him, that is good advice.

      OHh, and about the writing situation with magazines and newspapers and online paying very little or not at all for articles – one of the reasons i got out of the journalism business a few years ago was too much work for little payment. I also got tired of it all after 35 + years and now focus on fiction and memoir, including personal essays – surprisingly there are some places that pay and pay not too badly for the personal essays/memoir; you just have to find them and get them to publish your personal essay.

      Valerie, if you ever want to drop by for one of my East End Writers’ Critique sessions, please do. You don’t have to bring a writing piece for critique to take part in the critique of others’ work. Many of our new members haven’t written in the last while and are looking for inspiration. You can check it out on my website or the S. Walter Stewart Branch of the Toronto Public library online as that’s the library where we now meet.



  2. I agree with you on “losing my mind”, I am nearly 34, it happened to me for 6 days because of a side effect to a medication (that went away when I stopped it), but it was the scariest thing ever (my mind just kept going blank and I couldn’t remember important people in my life)

    • That is scary stuff. Big Pharma at its best – said sarcastically. Good thing it was just temporary. So far my mind stuff is what my now retired doctor used to call “information overload” cause with the effect that I sometimes forget where I put things but it is worse when things seem to disappear. The weirdest of that is an old hand weeder that disappeared when I was in the middle of weeding the garden and I looked everywhere from in the ground to yard waste bins to nearby areas. I hadn’t moved from the spot when it was gone. That’s not the weird part. Of course I bought a new weeder and treat it like it’s worth millions. Six or seven years later the old weeder turned up when i was digging the garden in the spring. Somehow it got buried. It was all rusty so I pitched it out. But I know I did the latter.

      Sometimes I think a big invisible hand comes down from the sky and moves things around.

      Anyway glad you mind returned to normal after you ditched the meds.



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