Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Indignities of Old Age

The Dream: Clark and I are in LA, going to see Clark's mother. When we get to our destination it is my mother we see, not his. She is incredibly old, tiny, and practically hairless. Clark keeps trying to get her to talk—she's lying curled up on a bed—and he wants her to get dressed so we can take her out. He is being kind, but I can feel the desperation in his voice. She seems more dead than alive, but she pulls herself out of bed saying, “I get enough exercise lurching around here.” When she “walks” she is bent over at a 90 degree angle.

She goes over to a nearby toilet and sits down, with no self-consciousness whatsoever. Her dark blue trousers are at her feet as she sits on the toilet. I go over to her. She laughs. She's laughing at finding herself in this ridiculous situation: elderly, frail, sitting on a toilet in front of others. It's a short burst of cognition. I put my arms around her and say, “You're a good sport; God bless you.” Then I feel myself ready to dissolve into tears.

Interpretation: This dream, like most dreams, is trying to come to terms with life's difficulties. In this case the problem is the inevitability of aging, of watching those we love diminish, and of making the connection that as they go so will we. The animus figure Clark wants to overcome the problem with practical action—get dressed, talk, go out: in other words, carry on. The desperation in his voice tells me that even he doesn't think these measures will work. It is the aging person herself, accepting the inevitable with humor and a dignity that transcends her situation, who shows the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment