Monday, November 17, 2014

Introducing Elizabeth Black; author of Longing

What It Means To Be Human
By Elizabeth Black

First, I would like to thank Lynn Townsend for accepting my story "Longing" for "Coming Together: Among The Stars". When Lynn told me about the anthology, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about.

I'm getting up in years, and as I age I've felt my body cooperate less with what I would like it to do. Every creak and ache reminds me that life doesn't last forever. Stooping sets my knees on fire. The idea of dancing makes me laugh. My right hip hurts when I walk for too long a period of time, although that has never stopped me from walking on the beaches near my home. I live on the Massachusetts coast, and I never give up a chance to walk on the beach. There's nothing as rustic as the Atlantic in New England. When I don't walk regularly, I feel the pain.

My husband and I have talked about what would it be like if (and maybe when) we lose our faculties. Memories slip away. Muscles won't stretch properly. Joints lose their ease of movement. There is a history of Alzheimer's disease in his family but not in mine. What would it be like to lose the sense of who you are?

And from those thoughts "Longing" was born.

A close friend of mine was diagnosed with dementia several years ago. I don't live with him so I don't have first-hand experience with the disease, but I know he needs constant care and vigilance. He is no longer permitted to drive by order of his doctor because he gets hopelessly lost. He is a writer, but he hasn't written anything in years since he can't concentrate enough to finish a sentence let alone an entire short story or book. He doesn't engage properly when in conversation. He says and does inappropriate things in public. It was depressing to see such a brilliant mind falter so quickly.

I hope I don't end up like that, but the fear is always at the back of my mind. When I forget something as innocent as what was on my grocery list, I wonder if it's the beginning of dementia. When I can't find my car keys or forget where I left my phone, is that a sign of something worse to come? What would life be like for my husband should he need to care for me 24/7? Or what would my life be like to do the same for him? We're in it for better or worse, after all.

Who knows, by the time we're that old technology and medicine will hopefully have advanced far enough to not only improve our quality of life but also lengthen our longevity. I agree with my husband when he says having the technological advances to live to 100, 200, and beyond means nothing if you have the mental capacity of a slug. It's the meaning in life that matters, not how long you live. I want to be of sound mind, with all my faculties present and thriving, until the day I die. I want to be able to write, to enjoy the beach, to bask in my husband's company, and to enjoy watching my son thrive as he approaches middle age. Those little things are what life is all about, and without them in my humble opinion life has little joy or meaning. All of these thoughts (no matter how jumbled) are what my story "Longing" is about. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Relevenant linkage: Death Should Be Optional

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