Cassidy Carson’s and my children, who we lovingly refer to as The Next Generation, were speaking to each other on how to dispose of their parents’ aged carcasses the other day. I say this jokingly because, in all seriousness, it is a discussion that parents and children should have with each other. We all strive to reach “that” age, and yours and our children will deal with an unenviable and inevitable burden: what to do with the old coots when we can’t go to the bathroom by ourselves? (Answer: Depends.)
For myself, I hadn’t given the subject much thought other than a dream a few years ago (more about it later), so it’s only fair that I leave some instructions while I’ve two brain cells to rub together.
First off, I want lots of medication and as many narcotics that can be injected into this frail elderly man without me kicking the bucket. I want that deep stupor that comes with legal prescriptions so I’m free of a body that refuses simple commands like “walk”, “stand”, and “don’t fall down.”
In this state, I’ll dream of far gone days when I was a young Airman in a crisp blue uniform, marveling at my beautiful wife, and holding one of my beautiful young daughters as she looks up at me with the eyes full of wonder. In my dreams, the sun will be bright, the air will be clear, and I’ll be able to see my whole future ahead. It will be beautiful and I will not want to wake up.
For the brief moments I am conscious, please feed me real food that hasn’t been frozen, microwaved, hydrogenated, or whatever they do in nursing homes in the far flung future. If you must give me reconstituted meals, it will remind me of other days gone by, when many warm meals I had as an elementary school child were frozen, tin-foiled concoctions.
These “TV dinners” were baked at 350 degrees for a few minutes, then voila! The perfect meal! We tried not to wonder what part of the cow is a “Salisbury steak.” Instead, we were thankful when the green beans were thoroughly cooked, that the mashed potatoes didn’t overflow their little corner tray too much, and the cherry cobblers didn’t scald our tongues for life.
I suppose this is an unreasonable request because nursing homes have always cooked food with an eye on the price first and nutrition second. Even so, please get me real food once in a while. I’d rather not spend my last few years eating frozen microwave dinners.
Lastly, I want to be cremated. My body is a hand-me-down, you know, the sum of parts from the world and the universe. Some of the salt in my blood once flowed beneath the oceans I sailed when I was nine. This flesh is borrowed from various farm animals who sedately ate soft grass under an open sky. The ideas that lent themselves to this blog, my books, and other writing came from giants in literature to whom I am but a humble servant. The fastest way to return this old hand-me-down is to drop my ashes into the sea where at least a small part was once home.
I don’t know yet what Cassidy wants for her last moments but I dreamt it once, maybe. We were in an old folks home and, for some reason, did not share a room. I sort of waddled in next to her bed and she complained that I’d taken too long to get there. She blamed my tardiness on my personality, as she does, accusing me of flirting with the nurses. I paid her no mind and gently crawled into bed next to her, smiling as she blathered on and feeling warmed by her arm around me. I fell asleep in the dream, happy to be home, which is wherever she is. As I get older, I want more dreams like that.