Social commentary has always been within the purview of writers. It is our privilege as well as our responsibility to look at the world around us and expound upon it. Whether through commentary, essay, satire or fiction we need to spread our writer's wings and sometimes peer under the rocks in the yard of Life and see just what is under them. I am going to try to do just that today.
I read in a popular entertainment magazine yesterday about the death of a minor starlet of the black and white era. She was found dead in her home and had apparently been that way, undiscovered, long enough to have mummified more or less. Although I can be something of a cold-hearted bastard it struck me as quite sad that someone's life could end this way. I began to speculate as to what circumstances would have needed to align for someone to pass this way. So, I did a little digging on the Web and discovered some disturbing information indeed.
I found an article in USATODAY from back in 2007 that explored the growing incidents of suicide amongst the elderly. The article stated that, "Some advocates and mental health workers say they also have to battle a prevailing notion that depression is a normal part of aging." I was saddened that such a thing might be generally believed. The article talked about one man's situation thus. "He was struggling to care for his 85-year-old wife, who suffered from Parkinson's disease. He did not work and he could no longer play golf, his favorite pastime." While I confess to having worries of such happening in my older years I hope it will not be so.
My fertile imagination finally settled on an idea for a poem. The poem would illustrate the struggles of a fictional man in his latter years who simply doesn't know what to think of the world he is in . As I sometimes must do, I would like to make it CLEAR that I neither condemn nor condone the actions/choices made by the protagonist in my poem, I do think I can understand them. That being said, please accept my poetic offering for today in the spirit intended and hopefully you can be both entertained and educated.
Tarnished Golden Years
The neighborhood’s been swallowed up by what’s called urban blight.
He seldom ventures out of doors and never when it’s night.
He has to have his pension checks go to a bank on Vine
Where no one wants to help him…just refer him to “online”.
A baseball bat’s behind his door in case somebody knocks
A little more insurance since the door has triple locks.
He had to tape his mail slot closed and bar the windows too
And hope all his precautions are enough to get him through.
He spends most days recalling times that are forever gone.
When everything made sense as far as what was right or wrong.
He doesn’t watch the TV news because it makes him sick
To hear the latest doings of some drug-crazed lunatic.
His groceries and his sundries are delivered twice a week
By some kid with more tattoos than a circus sideshow freak.
He gets his medications off a truck from UPS
That’s if the guy who’s driving it can read the damn’d address.
This really wasn’t how he’d planned to spend his sunset years
A hermit sealed inside his cave and plagued by doubts and fears.
A prisoner of time and age and of his failing health
Who’d watched his dreams all vanish much the same way as his wealth.
His Maddie was the only love he’d known for all his life.
For forty seven years she was his confidante and wife
She cooked his meals and raised his sons and kept the house so clean
The center of his universe…his source of hope…his queen.
At first the pain she felt she blamed on simply getting old
The coughing wasn’t worth concern, was nothing but a cold.
By when the coughing yielded blood, then it was far too late.
Although he spent his every dime, he couldn’t outwit Fate.
Forget the Boca condo and mimosas on the beach
That ship had sailed without them…now forever out of reach.
She had her place at Forest Glenn amidst the rolling hills
No longer at the mercy of the endless shots and pills.
And so he sits and listens to his ancient phonograph
Remembering her raven hair…her ruby lips…her laugh.
Remembering the days when he was tall and fit and strong
And all the time ahead of them seemed oh so very long.
This Friday night is special for he’s shaved and wears a tie
And settles in his favorite chair and breathes a little sigh
Upon the sideboard table is a fifth of Johnny Black
It used to be his favorite long before his heart attack.
The bottle that contains the pills they gave him for the pain
Was filled for him on Tuesday and won’t need refilled again.
There ought to be far more of them than he will every need
To satisfy the purpose of his life’s last conscious deed.
The first pill placed upon his tongue and then a whiskey sip
He drinks a toast to when he broke his motherfucking hip.
A toast to his angina…to his liver spots…his gout.
This ain’t that bad a way, he thinks, to finally just check out.
It’s hard to say who’ll find him and he wonders who will care
When he has left it all behind and is no longer there.
Then as the numbness spreads it takes away his pain and fears
And he drinks a final toast to all his tarnished golden years.