top of page

Shrink

Updated: Mar 22

Nothing I say in this post is new. Nothing I manage to find as wisdom hasn’t been learned by millions of men and women who have come before me. This is my one small voice added to a mountain of voices who have been laid low from beginning of humanity and will be until the end. Still, I will hope this is the most important posting I have ever put up.


I want to talk about your life, your world, my world, my wife’s world, your best friend’s world, your partners world, and how all of them will shrink, or already have.

Let’s start with me, my mother, my sister, and my cat.


I am in my mid-forties. I work very hard to keep up with my wife, who is very fit, and a handful of years younger than me. Despite trying to stay fit, I certainly have friends who are fitter than I am. Our family friend John is a hair's breath away from a world record row pace for his age, he bikes farther than I can understand being able to go, and I am certain that he can reach places on this planet I cannot reach.


If you said to me, Kevin, go climb to the top of Mount Everest, or K2 or many other mountains the answer is I cannot. To do so would kill me on the way. My world has shrunk in. It is not a question of did I want to, it is a question of can I, and I cannot.

Everyone will reach an age at some point in their life where their world has been reduced and they did not know about it yet. There is something you can’t do, remember, learn, or reach, that if the mood struck you, would be out of your ability now, where it might not have been outside the ability of a younger you. Maybe you can work to regain some of those things, but many are generally outside of your ability, likely forever, and time will take more of them from you as life goes by.


My sister has not exercised in her recent adult life, and her diet is poor. Partially as a result of this and partially as a result of the genetics to which all humanity is subject, she is partially bound to a wheelchair at a relatively young age. I remember hiking Mount Washington with this sister in her youth. Her world has shrunk down to where there are small steps, reasonable handicap accessibility and help to be had readily at hand. She has a wonderful husband of 30 + years, who helps a great deal, but in the planning of their vacation this year there are many places she could not go and can never go again. Her world has shrunk down.


My mother, now in her late 80’s, has had her world recede rapidly to a sphere so small my mind can not understand it. Not really. When she and my father moved to their current home, she used to walk miles a day around the blocks near them, for hours at a time. Then a few years ago she noticed it was down to a mile, maybe a little more. Then just a half mile, then barely one block, and then one block with a walker.


Her mind slowly slipped away, taking her short-term memory almost entirely with it. Her long-term memory became sufficiently suspect that there was no longer a way to say what stories she told were real or not. She lives, in any real sense, by the grace of others who take care of her. Her world shrunk first physically and eventually mentally. It is now the size of a hospital room and scattered memories through which she recognizes my father, her husband of 65 years.


My kitty has been with us for fifteen years. I’m given to understand that is a long time for an indoor only cat. In the last few weeks, her world shrunk. She struggled to make it onto the bed, so we added a box to help her make the jump in stages. Then she struggled with stairs in the house. She couldn’t trot up them anymore, but had to walk one leg at a time, carefully, while listing to the right. Then she couldn’t make it anymore and we moved the bed to the floor, and her food, water, and litterbox up to the bedroom for her.


But she didn’t know her world had shrunk. She tried to make it downstairs anyway, but she would have been terribly hurt, so we put up a child’s protection gate to keep her in a smaller range in the house. Soon she couldn’t walk well. She needed help to walk to the water and food, no matter how close it was. Then she couldn’t pee on her own, or drink without help, like someone holding her head up. We did all of it gladly, because we loved her.


My world shank when I wasn’t watching. My sister’s world shrunk further still. My mother’s world has contracted to a handful of memories she knows are true in a shifting sea of confusion. In the end my kitten’s world shrunk to that last point that waits for us all at the end. When her world shrank to nothing, my world shrank with it. It shrank as I stayed in the room with her whenever I could so she knew she was loved. It shrank because when she was gone, my world was forever changed. It became less than it was before. There are things now outside of my reach, that I cannot do.


Your world will shrink too. Maybe it already has. Who do you have around you to make the receding shores tolerable? Whether you believe in nothing at all, that this life is all we have, or that death is a doorway to whatever is next, the contraction will happen to you, and to those around you. When their worlds shrink yours will follow. Are you ready for the lessons you will need to learn to go down that road? Are you ready to support people around you who need it? Are you ready to be supported?


I don’t know if I am. I don’t know if I was. I know I am thankful. My little girl brought me more joy in life than I am able to adequately verbalize. Even in her death she made me a better man. As we diminish, we must be stronger than we thought we could be. For us. For them, whoever your them might be.


Thank you, little Feets.

 

In loving memory of my beautiful cat, and everything she taught me.
For my Feets

 

12 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

That is a really touching and thought provoking post. Thank you.

Like
bottom of page