The world was predictable and a happy one for me until one day around 1969.
It was then that my mother, 58, was suffering a disease called Vertigo Ménière. She had a constant ringing in her ear that was making her deaf and she had terrible bouts of vertigo.
Of vertigo I understood, as from birth, I had an inability to
ride in trains, cars, trams without getting dizzy to the point that I would
throw up. As a kid I could never ride swings. To this day when I drive I cannot
look down without feeling vertigo. And I get dizzy if I am in a car and I am not driving.
My mother from her bed told me, “I am 58, I have no male
companionship and no sex, and I believe that the god that exists does not concern himself
with our affairs. I have lost my belief in prayer." I was speechless. I did not know how to comfort her.
Three years later she died in bed in the presence of my Rosemary and me.
My Rosemary had a lovely smile but often when I photographed her she put on this sad face. I could never understand it.
I do now and I will explain how I have come to understand her.
When we both worked we felt useful and we raised our daughters and in years after we helped educate and take care of our two granddaughters. Sometimes we had two cars and sometimes only one. In our later years I would take her to her office in our large Audi and pick her up in the afternoon when I needed the car for a job. Eventually she retired from her job and stayed home. The same happened to me. Our one car was sufficient. But it was about then when I noticed her sadness.
About five years before she eventually died on 9 December 2020 she would tell me when she was in bed in the morning, “I don’t want to live.” I took this seriously and did everything to cheer her up.
I believe that by then she could see how our immediate family was fragmenting. She was realizing that we were only important to them financially. We were not useful in any other way.
I have been giving a lot of thought, in the last few weeks, to her shocking statement. And I can explain it.
To not want to live has nothing to do with wanting to die. Rosemary was not suicidal. She was not going to pop sleeping pills.
I am 81, and I mostly skip reading about politics, wars and I despise the social media emojis with their thumbs up and their LOLs. In my head, is the memory of my good friend Abraham Rogatnick who told me a year before he died, “Alex I am not long for this world and I am glad.”
In short I am losing my will to keep on living just like
Rosemary’s “I don’t want to live”. I feel that I am no longer useful to my
small family and since my Rosemary died my granddaughters don’t call or visit. I get my human affection from my two cats.
I have called friends I had not talked to for years:
Right off the bat, one said, “I don’t read the newspapers as they all hate Trump and I am a conservative."
Another friend I connected with after many years writes in some of my sad blogs, “He is always with you. You are never alone because He is there."
Why cannot people keep their politics and religion to themselves?
Three first cousins, one used obscenities when I mentioned President Kennedy, another sends me Covid conspiracy theory emails, another told me, “I am depressed. If Trump loses we lose our family values.”
Most of my good friends and writers I worked with are dead as are all of my influential mentors.
What keeps me going? It is the knowledge that my almost human, brother and sister cats, would not have anybody take care of them, if I met my oblivion.
And so I wake up in the morning to feed my cats. I bring my
breakfast in a tray to bed (Rosemary and I did this for 20 years with the NY
Times) in memory of my wife. And then I think, “Do I have to do anything today?
No.” And I stay in bed perhaps reading with my two cats on top of me. Before I know it a week has gone by without me knowing what day of the week it is.
To not have to do anything is an existential problem sometimes defined as angst.
Rosemary understood and that is why she did not want to live.
As for me…