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Insight: Mortality clouds everyone’s future; life is uncertain

Cheryl Everett

Note to readers under 50: Though you may be tempted to skip this reflection from an unrevered elder, you may want to read on for a glimpse into the minds of your parents, who will never share these thoughts with you because they — we — “don’t want to worry you.”

Letting go of our own sense of invulnerability is never easy.

Oh, we may laugh at “the younger generation” in its risk-taking behavior and boundless hopes, and we think we know better.

But, unless we experience an “early onset” terminal disease or drastically life-altering injury, we “know better” than to think we’re indestructible. But only in the abstract.

Eventually, time itself will chip away our unacknowledged illusions.

For me, the first chip was clinical depression. Sure, both my parents were immobilized by the disease for several months, while I only missed three days of work.

I never tried to hide it, and was pleased when people exclaimed, “You? I never would have guessed!” Of course not. I’m a survivor, by the sheer force of my own will, right?

Next, a serious surgery forced me to give up running. But, hey, I could still fast-walk and lift hand weights.

Forever young! The Baby Boomers’ anthem.

When weight gain crept up, Weight Watchers guided me down to my high school weight. How invigorating! And how easy to dismiss the warnings on my Weight Watchers cellphone app that I was below what they deemed a safe weight.

It didn’t seem worth noting early that morning last week when I felt a little light-headed upon rising. A few minutes’ rest ushered me out the door for my hour-long speed walk.

Returning home — less than a block away — I felt myself inexorably pitching forward — not the first time I’ve fallen. And an emergency room visit has always closed the pavement impact wounds.

But this time was different. My fall-breaking right hand is temporarily useless and unwashable. And now, for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing acute muscle spasms in my shoulders and back from the fall’s impact.

I always wondered why pro athletes didn’t “play through” muscle spasms.

And the vital signs: They’re called vital for a reason, right? Blood pressure, pulse and blood oxygen — all below normal.

Possible harbingers of life-threatening heart problems. And both my parents suffered from congestive heart disease that drained their vitality.

“It could be nothing.” And up to now it always has been. I’m ashamed to even write about it.

Or it could be everything.

My son lives in Olympia, Wash., and plans to visit us with our new grandson this month. I haven’t told him any of this.

If and when I do, I’ll make light of it. He’ll pretend to be reassured.

I’ve never said to him: “You know, I’m not going to be around forever.” And I never will.

But I’m saying it to myself. A moment of weakness that I’m sure will pass.

I’m counting on it.

(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)

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